Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Swadhyaya


It’s funny because a year ago someone read my palm and told me it said I never finished things. Since I heard it I’ve thought of all these things to support this assessment of myself. My mind pulled up the time I quit karate when I was little because this older boy who was in the class with me used to bug me too much. I think about all the stories I’ve started writing and never finished and all the creative projects I’ve began but never completed. I can think of a million things I haven’t tied up the ends on that seem small, hobbies, projects and I then started investigating into bigger things. My nursing career, did I finish that? I got the degree, but does that mean I completed anything? How on this journey do I know when I’ve come to the end of something? And if life is this never ending journey can we really call something finished. For all I know I may take up karate when I’m 80, I may finish knitting that sweater I’m knitting ten years from now. How do we know? I think the guilt I carry with in myself over believing I don’t finish things affects me far more negatively then any damage done from moving on to other things in my life when it feels like the right time to move on. In the tradition of believing that no choices are the wrong choices I’d like to believe I’m always moving in the right direction with my decisions whether I know it or not.

But in the tradition of finishing things there is one thing that has been eating at me. When I started this blog I began going through Patanjali’s Yamas and Niyama and I ended up getting distracted right before I brought up Swadhyaya, the fourth Niyama and my second last topic on Patanjali’s 8-limb approach to yoga. And when we talk about Swadhyaya we’re not talking about taking personality tests on the computer or finding out we can play the song Wipeout by slapping our bellies (all useful information, but not Swadhyaya). When we talk about self-study in yoga we mean learning about our True Self and moving under the layers of our ego self. We mean practices that help us find the connection between our physical forms, our minds, our emotions, our energy and our True Selves, as well as our connection to the world around us. Where the study of our minds or ego self requires the asking of many questions, the study of our True Self often requires our minds to say little at all, only to provide the silence required so that we can experience this moment and see it as it truly is.

Strangely enough, Swadhyaya, the practice of self study, feels like what I’ve been immersed in for the past year. In the time I’ve spent moving through jobs and houses and big life changes I’ve been doing a slow self study of who I am and working towards coming to terms with the fact that I am not my job, my house or my hectic life, but something underneath that is safe and solid and able to weather any of life’s storms. In my tradition of explaining the Yamas and Niyamas I’m going to set myself some goals for the week to practice self study.

1-Every time I feel an emotion rise I’m going to take 3 minutes to sit with it and experience it completely instead of trying to classify it or redirect it or explain it to myself.
2-From the first half of my Yin Yoga teacher training that we had this weekend we were asked to practice 20 minutes of Yin poses a day and I think I will consider that part of my Swadhyaya practice as it promotes looking more deeply into ourselves and experiencing ourselves in the moment.
3-And lastly I’m going to bring up the dreaded mantras again. I always resist doing them so I can only imagine there must be something good for me in them. I’ll include mantra in my daily mediation and see what happens.