As we navigate through life we are constantly adding tools to our toolbox in order
to better find our way. In the yoga sutras the practice of self-study is called Svadyaya. It can also be translated as "one's own reading". When was the last time you practiced a little self-study? It may have been really obvious, for example "wow, maybe I could have been a little nicer to my three year old who tore apart the entire basement I just cleaned up." (speaking from a little personal experience here). Or maybe it wasn't as obvious. For example when we sit back and realize we are feeling a certain way and can't quite figure out what or why. The magic happens in that split moment where you go "hmmm, what is that about".
A powerful phrase I once heard (and now repeat in yoga classes) is "remember you have complete control over your actions and reactions." Whoa - that is a big one. I grew up hearing phrases like "I can't help the way I feel - it's just the way I feel - I don't have control over my emotions". So imagine my surprise when I hear someone say I have complete control over my reactions. Wait, what?! I can control the way I feel and even more so the way I react (emotionally and physically) to a situation? When we can create the space between experience and reaction we create the space for self-study and in doing so create the space for personal growth.
So now, how do we put this into practice? Here are a few simple steps to creating the space in your life for self-study.
- Observe Your Breath - the coolness of your inhale and the warmth of your exhale. Then notice the quality of your breath. Is the breath short and labored? Is the breath long and easy? Is your inhale longer than your exhale or vice versa. It is in the observation that we create space and time for self reflection.
- Journal Your Thoughts and Emotions - This one can be a bit daunting at first, especially if you look up ideas on how to journal. Start simple. It can even be in a notebook or pad of paper. Let the words flow without judgement. When processing an experience or trying to make a decision this is a great place for reflection.
- Take One Full Breath Before Reacting - When a conversation or situation takes you off guard or by surprise take one full breath in, pause, and let that one full breath out before reacting. In this pause we have an opportunity to reflect on why are we reacting the way we are and do we have an opportunity to choose differently.
Just like a any practice of self-awareness or self-growth - start small and without expectation. Be kind to yourself and let the process happen on it's own time. This can be an epiphany of "whoa, I have control." or it can be a gentle unfolding of a new way of thinking and being.
These are just a few small steps to get you started on the path of Svadyaya. I would love to hear more about how you practice self-study in your daily life. We are all students and we are all teachers learning from one another.
Wishing you a journey filled with love and compassion.