Last week I told you I would report back on my foray into tapas. I did get a lot of stuff done in my master bedroom. The summer/winter clothes are switched and I reorganized my master bathroom. Hey, accountability works!
This week we will discover svadhyaya, self-study, taking the time to know ourselves. The better we know ourselves, our own minds and hearts, the better we can know our own minds, hearts, moods and emotions. One way of practicing svadhyaya is meditation. One benefit of meditating is that we learn how to respond, rather than react, to situations. For example, if someone pushes our buttons, we have the "mental space" to realize we need to take that deep breath or count to ten before reacting. We can respond in a way that might create more peace and harmony in our families, and by extension, in our world.
Usually meditation is seen as sitting quietly, focusing on the object of the meditation. But, meditative activities can also give us the "mental space" needed to learn about ourselves. What feels meditative to you? Do you like gardening, playing an instrument, or knitting? Do those things! Part of realizing our own spiritual nature is to learn to see spirit in the mundane activities of our lives (yes, even doing the dishes or cleaning the toilet). (Yuck!) But, seriously, people are so different from one another. What inspires or causes one person to discover him or herself may not do the same for someone else. You will have to discover what makes you tick your own way.
There are still more different ways to practice svadhyaya. One important, and traditional, way is the study of sacred texts, such as the Bhagavad Ghita, the Upanishads or the sacred texts of your chosen religion, if you have one. There are other types of "sacred texts," as well. Any writing that inspires YO U is a "sacred text." Reading gives us a chance to investigate different possibilities, to see things from different perspectives, and to reflect on our own beliefs, assumptions, and mental boundaries.
Your yoga asana practice can help you learn about yourself, as well. During asana practice, you might learn about ways you resist, different urges and tendencies, your competitive nature, about your ego, your insecurities and fears, or how you deal with boundaries, your own and others.
However you choose to learn about yourself, svadhyaya means being committed to the process, even when the going gets rough. It can be a bit rough when you learn of your faults and foibles, your delusions, addictions, and the parts of yourself you'd rather not know about. But you will also learn how you can overcome some of these faults and which ones we can let go of; this can only happen when you know and learn to understand yourself. You will also learn self-acceptance, which I think is the greatest lesson of all! The greatest reward is that you discover who you really are, the essential, eternal you, your true spirit and your true worth. When you discover who you really are, nothing can stop you!
I like what Swami Kriyananda says in "Raja Yoga."
Self-study begins with the careful observation of one's thoughts, feelings, and motives. As one advances in this practice, he discovers that central reality of his being which is beyond thought, form, and substance, which cannot be observed and analyzed, which cannot even be truly defined, though it is sometimes described by its essential quality: JOY.
Your assignment this week is to learn something about yourself that you didn't know before. Writing/journaling is a good way to learn about yourself, so write about what you discover.