Self-reflection (svādhyāyāt) leads to a pure connection (saṁprayogaḥ) with one’s personal (devatā) spiritual path (iṣṭa).
PRACTICAL LIVING Last week we discussed the importance of dedicated practice (tapas). This week, Patañjali brings up tapas’ partner: self-study. Action without reflection is incomplete and vice-versa. In order to know what the most appropriate action or practice is, we need to reflect, we need to ask ourselves what resonates with us on a deep level.
Self-reflection asks us to be continuously curious about ourselves, not our neighbors, partners or family members, but ourselves. It’s through being curious about who we are that we become more self-aware, and therefore are able to make appropriate changes to our lives. A lifetime commitment to curiosity is required on this path. There are many parts of ourselves that could use some shedding light on.
The more light we shed on our ‘unknown’ places, the more we understand ourselves, and the closer we get to our source of light – whatever you may call that. As we go on this exploration, we need honesty to find things that may not be so pleasant to feel, courage to feel them and acceptance to embrace them as part of who we are. Curiosity, honesty, courage and acceptance lead us gradually to experience our divine qualities.
IN THE YOGA WORLD Traditionally, self-reflection occurs through the study of sacred texts and through chanting mantras repeatedly. In modern times, that may work for some. Personally, studying the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali and some other ancient texts works for me. But having deep conversations with friends, therapists, teachers and grandmas may do the job effectively as well. How we do it is not what matters. What matters is that we’re continuously doing it.
“devatā” could also be translated as ‘deity’. What form does your mind give to your deepest potential? It may be in the form of a religious deity, or it may be related to nature or even a sensation rather than a physical form. Once again, Patañjali is not asking you to visualize a certain image, it is just suggesting that you connect with it in the way that makes sense to you. For some it’s Jesus or Śiva, for others it’s the moon. The point is that you are the only one who knows how to self-study yourself, and that path will lead you to a more intimate connection with the form that represents light to you.
Enjoy your exploration towards light!
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON A seeker, self-explorer, a life-adventurer and love-holder, Marylee has come into my life like a fairy spreading magical dust. Listening to her life story and spending time with her these past few months showed me her thirst for self-study and evolution – it’s beautiful! Her willingness to experience the painful, to look into the deep corners of herself is so courageous. And her desire to keep on growing and celebrating life makes her a joyous and compassionate magnet. I am so truly happy that our paths have met gorgeous woman. Let’s fill the world with divine music! Love you wonderful woman!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and next week we will discuss the depth of letting go and surrendering!
It took me a long time to work through the grieving process. I went through all of the stages of grief except for anger. I am a kind, loving, peaceful person and I couldn’t find it in myself to touch the angry part. In fact, I denied it by telling myself that I was peaceful and loving. I really didn’t know I was angry! One day I sat out on the patio and watched a storm roll in. The day had previously been the most beautiful, warm, summer day. The storm literally rolled out of nowhere. It was dark and angry. I thought the house would blow away before it gave away to the most amazing and heavenly sunset I had ever seen. Nature revealed to me in that moment, that acknowledging and letting go of the anger I was repressing would only lead me to a more beautiful place. Being curious and exploring the darkness inside of me wouldn’t define me…it would help me understand a part of myself that I had never met and actually make me a more peaceful and loving person. It also brought closure to a very difficult part of my life, helping me to move on.
This brought tears to my eyes Melissa. Thanks for sharing this story. We are part of nature, and observing the elements, is observing ourselves. Beautiful!
Just thinking about those unknown corners makes me anxious, I have to admit. We don’t like to think that we need change. I have been through a part of life where great self-reflection was necessary. And again, I’ll be honest, I didn’t like what I saw. I had to face the fact that I was not always happy and there were deep places that had to be adjusted before I could move on. Since that time my life it has been much easier to be a better part of the relationships that I hold closest!
Self reflection described as being “continuously curious about ourselves” doesn’t stress self help but rather a path to self discovery, for me this is so liberating. I believe I finally understand that it isn’t about ridding myself of past pain but instead about allowing the grieving process to unfold. I have discovered that grieving helps me to recognize the importance of being totally honest with myself. Honesty has brought me joy and pain but it also gave me the potential to forgive, begin to let go of anger and feel empathy for myself and others.
Thank you to the majestic Red Tailed Hawks who have enticed my inner curiosity for many years. They offered me the courage to seek freedom, the ability to take flight into the unknown and the assurance that I am never alone.
Sandi, that is my favorite bird!! I was once also told it is my spirit animal by someone who is into that… But i am totally fine with that. I love your thoughts on this sutra!
Self-Reflection is definitely something I have kept locked up in a closest, chained with deadbolts. While there have been little self-reflection glimpses over my lifetime I try to keep busy so as not to allow myself to reflect and/or just ignore the pain. The fear is, if I self-reflect I won’t be strong anymore. I have always had to be the strong one and what if I am stripped of that through self-reflection. Scares me. Finding yoga has allowed me to finally let self-reflection out of the closet (even if it is only a little crack at a time). So grateful!
I have been trying to look within my entire life I feel like. Because of my mental health struggles growing up (long before I knew what they were) I was always questioning myself. I felt different, struggled with social interactions & friends, school was so much pressure, everything was always weighing on me. It wasn’t until high school that I gradually began accepting myself, through more positive relationships & various challenging things that I pushed through. It honestly seems like God, or life, karma, whatever you want to call this force in life, is constantly challenging me to be better, to push through the hard obstacles & come out stronger. But my biggest change has been more recently, with therapy, Yoga Teacher Training, & learning about my struggles, accepting them, embracing them, & doing what I need to thrive, not just survive. I believe everything happens for a reason, so I’ve learned to embrace all of it, even if it’s painful.
Oh, what amazing insights Lauren! I hear a lot of sraddha – trust. Read sutra I.20