Why We Study ourselves

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to engage in some deep self-inquiry. The weekend workshop started by asking each person to identify what had drawn them to this type of work as well as identify what may be standing in their way. That is we had to first verbalize what it was that we wanted from this experience as well as identify the resistance, or karmetic patterns, that may prevent us from attaining that goal.


As I struggled to answer both questions, I noticed a lot of unacknowledged thoughts and feelings surface. The interesting thing about these feelings and thoughts, was that they were things that I  had hidden not only from the rest of the world, but also from myself. And while their acknowledgement was painful, giving them voice was surprisingly liberating. In some way, I found myself internally singing “the truth shall set you free.”


Yet, it seems that as I have transitioned back to “regular” life, naming the elephant in the room has not been as easy as it seemed in the context of the workshop container.


Back in the context of work, life, and people I know on a day-to-day basis, I have found myself asking: How do I do this? Do I reveal the underlying series of beliefs that shape why I do what I do? Or do I keep that knowledge to myself? What are the costs of each? Is the type of change I began to taste and experience within the confines of this weekend workshop possible within my daily life without making serious changes to the way that I live my daily life and the people I associate with? Does change on one level require change on all levels? Do I have to change everything in my life in order to allow lasting change to take effect? Or are there aspects of our former lives/selves that we need to retain for just a bit longer until we are strong enough to let them go? In short, what is the cost of action versus inaction on this front? 


Turning to the texts as I understand them, the only word that comes to mind is Svadhyaya. Described as one of the Niyamas (i.e. personal observances) by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, Svadhyaya is the process of inquiry. Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar articulates svadhyaya as the education process of the Self.  Taking “sva,” which in sanskrit refers to one’s jivatman, one’s soul, or one’s best self, and combining it with “dhyaya,” which refers to the education, study, contemplation, reading, or meditation of, we come up with svadhyaya as being the study of one’s soul or the meditation on the Self.


As one reads his/her soul, one learns to see all the things that are not part of one’s highest self and all the things that keep one from being one’s best self and learns to let those things go. In Sanskrit the word “Tyaga” refers to this type of voluntary renunciation that strengthens one’s inner resolves and increase one’s connection to one’s highest version of oneself.

Using the concepts of Tyaga and svadhyaya as the basis, the question I have for you, the one I am working to answer for myself is this: Are you able to remain aware of the transitions that are occurring in your life – both those that you initiated as well as those that began on their own?


As you become more aware of the changes taking place, can you allow yourself to pause and consider they are here to help you learn more about the best version of who you could be, as well as identify the things that you need to be let go of in order to more fully embody this version of yourself? This question may apply to your personal life, your professional life, or even how you show-up on the mat. Wherever it is applicable, can you just be with whatever comes up – even if it is resistance – as compassionately as possible so that you may receive the underlying gem that may enable you to become the best version of you possible? 


To help, I would like to offer the aid of the Gyan mudra, or the chin mudra. This mudra is said to be the seal of consciousness, as it symbolizes the union of the the individual soul (represented by the index finger) with the Universal Soul (represented by the thumb). Aside from helping eliminating negative forces in the body and the mind, it is also said to help us attain a deeper sense of knowledge, calmness, and ease.


Take a few moments to sit and breathe. Afterwards, notice any changes that have occurred as a result of using the mudra.