Just Enough is More, the Power of Santosha

As a child of modernism, the graphic designer Milton Glaser always heard people say “less is more”.  It frustrated him because one could look at a Persian rug, for example, and realize with all the patterns and colors that less certainly is not more – its beauty comes from complex intricacies in patterns and colors!  He proposed that what is more truthful to say is that “just enough is more”.  That to achieve perfection in a Persian rug or anything else, you have to recognize when to stop and rest on what you have.

Antoine de Saint Exupery said “you have achieved perfection, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.”

That is really the same, isn’t it.  I have tried to follow this mantra in my own design career.  I often start with a minimal design and watch how with each iteration, more gets added. And I challenge each addition, as I believe there is a balance between the amount of information vs. the understanding derived from it.

By studying yoga, I have learned a little Sanskrit, the ancient Hindu language used to describe the poses or asanas and tenets of yoga.  I was focused on ananda (aka bliss) a few weeks ago and how it related to happiness.  But another Sanskrit word that has come to resonate with me is “Santosha”.  Simply put, Santosha means contentment.  And “contentment is variously described, but can be thought of as not requiring more than you have to achieve contentment. It may be seen as renunciation of the need to acquire, and thereby elimination of want as an obstacle.”  Hey, that’s what Milton and Antoine were saying!

Now let’s apply this to life!  If happiness is extended into ananda or bliss by pure rapture and joy, then Santosha or contentment is more sedate and less extreme but equally related.  It is saying that you are okay who you are right now.  And everything you have is enough right now.  We often get overwhelmed with all we have to do, with what we want to do, with where we might want to go, with who we want to see, etc.  And having goals and dreams is valuable to experiencing happiness, joy, and bliss.  But much energy can be consumed in the acquisition of those things.  And oftentimes we become attached to the outcomes too much and falter when we fail.

How can we can achieve a balance, then?  If we can learn to meditate on Santosha, then we will realize that we are enough, you are enough, it is enough, right here, right now.  We don’t need to be attached to outcomes of those goals and dreams.  We can appreciate the journey.  Everything that we’ve experienced got us to the now; and everything in the future will be what it will be.  We do our best and trust the rest to the universe.

And that reminds me of a story:

One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf. He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the prospect of catching a fish.
About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family. “You aren’t going to catch many fish that way,” said the businessman. “You should be working rather than lying on the beach!”
The fisherman looked up at the businessman, smiled and replied, “And what will my reward be?”
“Well, you can get bigger nets and catch more fish!” was the businessman’s answer.
“And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman, still smiling.
The businessman replied, “You will make money and you’ll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!”
“And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman again.
The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman’s questions. “You can buy a bigger boat, and hire some people to work for you!” he said.
“And then what will my reward be?” repeated the fisherman.
The businessman was getting angry. “Don’t you understand? You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let all your employees catch fish for you!”
Once again the fisherman asked, “And then what will my reward be?”
The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, “Don’t you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won’t have a care in the world!”
The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, “And what do you think I’m doing right now?”

Story: Heinrich Boll

The fisherman had just enough, not less or more.  Love that.  Happy Sunday, everyone! ♥

One Reply to “Just Enough is More, the Power of Santosha”

  1. Pingback: Gratitude = Joy | p.s. bonjour

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