The Study of Self

When we take the time to look inward...with a willingness to be open to what we find and an attitude of love towards ourselves...we can take part in nurturing our personal growth, discovering our true selves, and flourishing in unexpected ways.

There are many ways to undertake a life of self study. Reading, study groups or study pairs, meditation, journaling, prayer, yoga practice are just a few of the ways that we might specifically put our attention on broadening what we know. In the Yogasutra of Patanjali, svadhyaya refers not only to self study and self inquiry, but also to the study of sacred texts and the recitation of sacred chants. When we embark on this journey of self discovery, it isn't meant to be in a bubble of self only. The information and knowledge from those that came before us and the feedback we receive from the outer world in combination with our own insights are all necessary to fully engage with the process. Some of it can be and needs to be done alone, but we must also do some of it in relationship to others. We can find spaces for collaborative study, for shared experiences, as well as spaces where we can be vulnerable and have that vulnerability witnessed by others without judgement.

Not all of our experiences come without judgement, though. We have energetic patterns that have been with us for a long time, that came from adversity in our lives. If we have the courage to witness them and find a new perspective on them, we can shift those patterns and find freedom from their pull to keep us stuck. We often understand something much later when we're looking back on certain events and circumstances. Many of us tend to focus on the negative parts of life, constantly looking to "fix our problems". It's not that our problems aren't real, there are real things to figure out all the time that are important and deserve our attention. Sometimes we put our mind to them, work at them for a bit and figure out a solution and continue on our way. Other times, we get stuck for one reason or another and find ourselves dealing with the same problems over and over or not being able to figure something out for a very long time. These are the energetic patterns that build up over time as we go through our lives, that at one time or another were vital to our survival. It's possible that we don't actually need them anymore the way we did before, and becoming aware of how they serve us or no longer serve us is a hugely important step in getting unstuck from those tough spots where problems seem impossible to solve. When we see our problems as opportunities for growth, a new awareness and perspective can emerge, giving us a chance to step back and ask ourselves what we might learn from them and what the Universe might be trying to help us figure out. There will always be potential "triggers", but with regular self reflection, we may become aware enough to not be pulled by them in the same way and to move through those moments more easily and quickly and from a different place than we had before.

It's not just negative experiences that offer possibility to shift our perspective and find self-awareness. Often when things are going well and we decide to step out into the world in a bigger way than we have before, in a direction that we know is the next step for us, or one that challenges our perceived limitations of ourselves, we may experience a backlash of negative feelings, thoughts, voices, fears or hesitations that have kept us where we're at, and have been the reason we didn't or couldn't push past those limits previously . Learning to see these moments as opportunities for growth is like building a muscle. The more we practice it with care and balance, the better we will get at recognizing those hurdles as gifts to help us expand who we are and move through those negative pieces to a renewed perspective. Becoming aware of the difference between how something feels, what our intuition is, and what our perspective is, is important in discerning how to proceed. Our self reflections may guide us to take action in order to see that a very strong feeling really doesn't hold the oomph we thought it did, or we might need to slow down, take our time, and just stay the course as things unfold. Whatever we decide, staying connected to the idea that an opportunity is available to us can provide us with the balanced perspective we need to keep us on track.

When other people are involved in our problems and difficulties, we can very easily want to blame them. This is completely understandable, as there are many situations in which it can feel like if someone else would just act differently or do something differently, then our problem wouldn't be so bad or would easily be solved. And, maybe it's even true in some way for some circumstances. The important part here is that when we blame someone else for how we feel about something, we are giving up our own power. Another person may seem to be causing a problem for us or making it worse, but it's totally up to us how we react to it and how we perceive it. If we can see it as an opportunity, we may find that we get to build a new muscle. Maybe we learn how to negotiate better. Maybe we see a different point of view that we weren't open to before. Or, maybe we realize that we need to remove ourselves from the situation altogether rather than continue to be upset or controlled by it. When we do our best not to place blame, there is a much bigger range of possibility and solutions to choose from.

What are some of your self reflective practices? How can you practice svadhyaya on a regular basis? Take some time this week to look back on some experiences you've had, positive or negative, and see what lessons were learned or gifts were received from them. Did you form new perspectives or understand yourself better because of them? Is there a problem you're currently trying to solve? Consider viewing it as an opportunity for self study, using it as a stepping stone for your own personal growth and see if any new solutions or perceptions can be received.

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