Svadhyaya~Study by and of Oneself 

“Know yourself so well that you will grow into your wholeness and greatness.” ~ C.L. 

The yogis teach that you are, at the core, divine consciousness. This place within each one of us is referred to as our ‘true nature’ or ‘inner light’, or ‘heart-mind’. This light is covered in your experiences, your conditioning, and your belief systems. This is how you identify with yourself and what you believe to be true, your preferences and dislikes, your fears and imagination. This is all informed by country, culture, gender, town, ancestors and family history, groups you belong to, and your personal experience. The guideline of Svadhyaya invites you to observe your outer nature of who you are in the world, which is always changing, and to realize your unchanging inner light of awareness. 

The first step toward self-improvement and self-refinement is looking at yourself honestly and objectively. This can provide a glimpse of who you are. Every comment you make about the world, about another person, about an event, about life, is a projection of yourself and a clue to your interior landscape. The world is your autobiography. The world and others simply reflect back to you what you are seeing, not what is there. It is as if wherever you look, there are only mirrors that show you pictures of yourself. You cannot love or hate something about another person or the world unless it is already inside of you first. The world gives you what you see. As you change, the world changes with you. 

Traditionally, Svadhyaya meant learning and repeating a mantra chosen by your teacher. You can connect with your inner-guru and choose your own mantra. The mantra OM is the most common mantra and its repetition connects you to the divine. It can be any word or statement that resonates with your heart-mind, like Shanti (peace) or Santosha (contentment). It can be a quality you admire in another, like courage or graceful. It can be a word that resonates with your inner heart,). It can be an affirmation, intention or sacred wish. As you meditate, you can silently repeat this mantra and allow it to imprint on your heart-mind. 

This niyama also invites you to study ancient scriptures or even inspirational biographies that are meaningful to you. This allows you to focus on your inner nature and cultivate those qualities that are already a part of your true self. As you shift your attention to your true nature, belief systems begin to fall away, and you become free. This allows you to greet each moment purely (Saucha) with beginners mind.

Journaling can also be beneficial to cleanse the heart-mind of emotional disharmony. Rereading your diary may also be helpful to reveal patterns of behaviour and shed some light on the mechanisms of your conditioning. There may be a tendency to blame what is outside of you and then justify what you are thinking or feeling. Every event that life presents to you is a precious opportunity to learn the truth about yourself. Often it is the people “that drive you crazy” that hold the greatest potential of learning for you. If you are courageous enough to trace the disharmony back to yourself, you can begin the process of self-study which brings you closer to your true essence. 

In western culture, we tend to analyze, fix, and control just about everything. If we don’t like something about ourselves or our lives, we keep trying to figure out what is wrong and then fix it, all the while maintaining control to keep things as smooth as possible. This really means to keep things the way we like them. Eastern thought invites you to let go of needing to understand and fix but to instead be the witness. To watch yourself act and respond. To watch your thoughts and your emotional disturbances. This ability is what gives you clues to your conditioning and to the inner stories you have created about yourself and your life.  As you practice Yoga on the mat, you are invited to develop the witness and to be the watcher of your experience in the poses. This is a mirror of how you are in your life.  The ability to bring the witness into play on the mat and in your life allows you to step outside of ego limitation and to discover your true nature. The profoundness of watching is that you begin to ‘know yourself’ and this brings healing to your life. 

There is a cute story about God creating human beings. God was worried that he would get no rest as the humans would want to talk to him and want things from him. So God went to the elders to ask their advice. They told him to hide on top of Mount Everest, or the moon, or deep in the ocean. But God was still concerned as he knew how resourceful humans would be. Then one elder whispered in his ear and God shouted in delight, “That’s it! I’ll hide inside of each human; they will never find me there!” We suffer because we forget this truth. We continue to identify with our outer nature and forget we are really the Divine hiding inside. Yoga is a path of peeling away the layers to our inner light and Svadhyaya invites us to observe the outside to discover the inside. We think we are what we are on the outside, our role, our job, our culture. But we are really the Divine hiding inside.  Svadhyaya is self-study and about knowing our true identity as Divine and understanding our outer nature too. We can do this by watching the way we project on to others, the way we react and by courageously looking at life as it is. This process of knowing ourselves creates a pathway to freedom. The ability to shift your identification from your outer nature (ego) to the witness, and finally to your true self as Divinity itself, is the joy of this jewel of self-study.

OM MANI PADME HUM ~ May the jewel in the lotus be realized



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