During July, one of my yoga teachers encouraged her students to stop at least once each day to savor the delights of everyday experiences—eating an ice cream cone, smelling fresh cut grass, the feel of clean sheets. Katy urged us to link this practice to our five senses. I’ve loved this idea, and ever since, I find myself pausing several times each day to savor an everyday delight. Like the other night in the pizza parlor, the sight of the baby at the next table who locked eyes with me and gave me the biggest sweetest smile ever. Or the taste of perfectly brewed iced tea. Or the smell of the late blooming gardenia on my scraggliest bush. Or the feel of the breeze generated by my porch fan on my bare arms and legs. Or the sound of my husband’s laugh.
My yoga teacher linked this practice of pausing to appreciate ordinary pleasures to santosha, one of the niyamas or observances that are part of yogic philosophy. Santosha translates from Sanskrit as complete contentment or satisfaction, and yogis often talk about it as the practice of accepting and being grateful for things as they are. Like everything else in yoga, the idea is complicated, and it can refer to our intent, our inner state, or our outward expression. As an intent, santosha is related to deciding to accept the world around us. That intent can lead to an inner contentment which can be outwardly expressed as serenity.
Sometimes when I become focused on a concept or idea, the universe seems to conspire to reinforce that idea by placing references it to it everywhere I look. That’s been the case with the idea of savoring everyday delights. For example, yesterday one of my Facebook friends posted a quote from one of my favorite mystery writers. The main character from the series by Louise Penny is Inspector Armand Gamache, a homicide chief from Montreal. Any time Gamache is facing a difficult situation or gets into a tight spot, he calms himself by savoring everyday delights. His list is almost like a mantra that appears over and over in the series:
"Clean sheets, thought Gamache. The scent of wood smoke. Feeling Henri’s [his dog] head on my slippers. He went through his own private code. A sort of rosary. Flaky croissants."
Then I listened to a podcast conversation between journalist Krista Tippett and writer Ross Gay that focused on tending joy and practicing delight. Gay’s pure relish in ordinary things was infectious, and I found myself smiling through the entire podcast. (See the link to the podcast elsewhere in this newsletter.) That podcast led me to Gay’s lovely essay “Loitering” which praises the practice of taking one’s time and engaging in what he called “non-productive delight.” What an enchanting idea. (See the link to the essay elsewhere in the newsletter.)
One of the people who responded to my reader survey last spring suggested that I regularly include one little thing—one practice or behavior--that can vastly improve our lives. This month, the one little thing is to savor everyday delights. I’ve found that if I can take myself off autopilot just once or twice a day to feel that piece of dark chocolate melting gently on my tongue or to listen to the wren singing up a storm among the pink blossoms of my crape myrtle, I feel calmer, happier, and more content with my life.
How about you? What everyday delights do you savor?