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Know Thyself

living your yoga Sep 25, 2023

The Eight Limbs of Yoga: An 16 part mini-course

PART NINE: SVADHYAYA – Self Study

Sacred study of the divine through scriptures, nature, and introspection.
– SUTRA II.44

There is always room for improvement in your life. Svadhyaya represents an ongoing process through which one can assess where you are now and where you are headed. It serves as an inner compass for attuning to the path that aligns with your truest Self. The path upon which you express yourself fully by asking and answering the meaningful questions of life: Who am I? What is my purpose? What are my aspirations? What are my responsibilities and priorities?

Awareness is developed through the practices of inner reflection, as well as the study of spiritually inspiring teachings, that help you to better understand your modus operandi. Through personal understanding, you gain the insight to shift your attitude and behavior towards living in balance more harmoniously, peacefully, and joyfully. This is the practice of Svadhyaya

Attending a Wellness Retreat offers just such a time for reflection. Experiencing adventures in new territories removes you from the familiar and gives way to clear understanding. Committing to a consistent daily formal practice develops the discipline that it takes to experience profound benefits.  A retreat is a time to remember how to treat yourself and others. When you shift out of your everyday operating procedures, you can more easily experiment with new patterns and open yourself to new perspectives. A retreat is a means to refining your actions and cultivating new rituals that support your deeper desires. 

When making a change for yourself there is often the desire to be better.  Yet, in a way, I find that this being better is a subtle message that you are not enough. How about instead of being better, you simply apply yourself to fully beingBeing who you are while strengthening yyour ability to see more deeply into how you operate and, on that basis, refining your life by becoming more clear and truthful in your behavior.

Sharing time with immediate family members can serve as one of the best and biggest mirrors for reflecting on your behavioral habits and changes throughout your lifetime. The roles you grow up with are a challenge to release as your behavior and expectations of who you are and how you have been are deeply embedded in your emotional chemistry. 

Whenever I return to the family environment, I am amused at myself for sinking into old patterns, feeling 16 again, acting 16 again, while knowing that my life without my family presents a different picture with different choices. The family mirror reflects my past and the changes I have made within myself. Quietly observing our interactions, I more easily slip beneath the din of distraction to hear the truth between their words and see the soul beneath the surface. With greater frequency I am pausing to allow for a deeper connection through listening and observing. 

I have become more interested in truly seeing my relations and accepting them for who they are and who I am in their company. I credit this shift of attitude to the teachings of Svadhyaya and Tapas – Self Reflection and Self Correction.  

Acceptance seems to be the most difficult challenge for us humans. It’s so common to speak of changing another person to be who you want them to be, who you believe they should be. However, the only person you can truly change in this world is yourself, and that alone is a difficult task. 

To penetrate the distractions, to remove the veils of illusion, to cleanse away the habits and patterns that disturb your well-being takes a consistent commitment to keen observation and the willingness to let go. You certainly can’t live anyone else’s life. So you might as well pay attention and get to know yourself in relationship to others. Enter Svadhyaya — Know Thyself.

May you set the time aside on a regular, daily basis to sit quietly, perhaps reading words of inspiration, and allowing the space for inner reflection with the intention of becoming more of who you truly are – expressing your highest and greatest good within and loving those around you.

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