The studying of the self is not only personal, but also a realization of just how much is shared. As we dig in and bear witness, the practice of seeing and observing something as it truly is turns into a study. The observations of our patterns of behavior, preferences, and tendencies provide so much valuable information, and as we learn more it seems that more becomes available to us.
This study is known as Svādhyāya
Some call it Soul Searching. The 4th of the Niyamas Svādhyāya is here to reveal to you your inherent wisdom, and its rooted connection to all that surrounds. Have you ever experienced a deep unidentifiable sense of knowing, or a sense of wonder at the profound and vast nature of our existence? If the answer is yes, you have encountered Svādhyāya .
It is the process of curious observation that eventually leads us towards self-study and realization. A lifelong student/teacher duality within -and- without the self. Svādhyāya takes many shapes and forms, rarely belonging to any sort of one container.
The creation of our own reality and the inkling that we are perhaps only scratching the surface of the information that we can unlock from within the self keeps Svādhyāya top of mind for many who choose to journey inward.
If you find yourself walking down this fiercely true, yet tricky pathway here are some ways to cultivate your version of the 4th Niyama:
Choose a practice that works for you with your life. Meditation and quieting the mind in stillness revels many subconscious layers over time. One of the things I learned right away about meditation is that everyone has their own preferred path. What works well for others may not fit with your lifestyle. Rather than looking to ‘them’, try a few types and attend a few seminars or workshops before you choose. In the beginning I was doing zazen Buddhist meditation and breath count. I later went on to practice Metta and sending love to all beings, and now I am a Vedic practitioner (20 minutes, 2x a day mantra repetition). They all had their benefits and places in my life, and not all of them were right for me. Know that you can always change your mind.
Known as Pranayama (prana meaning life or primordial force // yama meaning control), breath techniques tell the body what to do. Creating a relationship with the breath has the ability to control how the body reacts and responds to fear, tension, trauma, and anxiety. It provides peace of mind during difficult times, improves our focus & attention, and increases energy. It is a sacred tool that if used correctly, can assist you in regulation of the body and mind as you move through your experiences. If you don’t know where to start, try this book: Light on Prãnãyãma: The Yogic Art of Breathing, B.K.S Iyengar
Our most natural state of being is able to awaken when we go outside. Spending time in Nature, even 10 minutes a day has profound effects on our mood and energy levels. I truly believe that all of the answers to life’s questions can be found by consulting Nature. When you are seeking, Nature is the highest truth. We see this indicated in sacred geometric figures like the flower of life, or the general patterns of plants and growth. Pay attention to this natural order and find your appreciation transformed. Go outside.
Self-reflection allows us to review our patterns of behavior, both long and short term. We are constantly changing and evolving when embracing self-study. As such, it is important to keep documentation to give yourself context to how your journey is taking shape. It doesn’t have to be any certain way; this documentation is not meant to be a place to hold judgement. It, just like Svādhyāya , it only intended to be a lens through which to view and observe.
Do you want to start with a worksheet to understand more about your patterns?
I enjoy this exercise below, reflecting on these questions once every few weeks to see how our objectives and motivations may have shifted, and why. Remember, Svādhyāya has no right answers. Simply put, it is a continual learning environment for the self-curious.
What is my inner motivation?
What is going to do me good?
Where can I be as I am?
Stay curious, dear ones.
Love Em of M&M