How well do you understand yourself?
It’s an important question amid the tension and instability that dominates our landscape these days. Because in order to understand others, we have to first understand ourselves. And this requires self-study, or svadhyaya.
Identifying different inner aspects of our personalities we don’t always want to face can be uncomfortable or even scary. But it’s necessary to maintain peaceful and successful interactions with others – be they acquaintances or complete strangers.
If we continue to shut down one anothers’ feelings, intentions, and beliefs without first looking at what drives our own, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to ever achieve such interactions.
What Is Svadhyaya?
The word svadhyaya is composed of the Sanskrit sva, meaning “self” or “belonging to me,” and adhyaya, meaning “inquiry” or “examination.” In its most literal sense though, adhyaya also refers to “getting close to something.”
Thus, svadhyaya necessitates that we become closer to our true self through study and inquiry.
It makes sense. Throughout our lives, we’re encouraged to study. We’re taught the value of study in school. Or when we want to learn something more deeply, such as a musical instrument, a sport, or a specific job, we study the many techniques and intricacies of them.
Eventually, we see that study is the foundation of nearly any activity we want to pursue. Yet few of us are led down a path that encourages self-study. So how could we possibly understand ourselves?
What It Means to Understand Yourself on the Surface
We all have to contend with our minds, egos, personalities, and physical bodies. Yet, it’s all too easy to push down certain behaviors or thoughts connected to these without examining them first.
Think, for a moment, about how you treat others. What is your quality of speech when speaking with others? When your partner or best friend is talking, do you listen or do you just want to talk? Do you tend to communicate with your boss, a family member, the grocery clerk from a place of anger or frustration?
Without self-study, we tend to do much of this on autopilot.
Examining how you interact with others is essential to understanding yourself because it’s likely you treat yourself in the same way you treat them. This then leads you to question your beliefs and attitudes about who you are and what you believe you can do.
Some of the questions you might start to ask yourself are:
- Are these attitudes supporting or hindering me?
- Do they affect how I act towards others?
- Am I taking care of my body?
- Can I be more loving and patient with my body and myself?
- Do I emphasize honesty and truthfulness in my thinking and actions?
Exploring the answers to these questions is a great place to begin the practice of self study.
Along with examining our thoughts, personality, emotions, and physical body, svadyhaha encourages us to dig even deeper to understand our true nature.
That may sound like a lot of malarkey.
But consider for a moment all of the labels you wear from day to day – father, wife, lawyer, Black, student, Catholic, gay, etc. It’s easy to identify so completely with these labels that we lose sight of who we really are. We can also get easily lost in the ‘me’ and ‘mine’ aspects without ever focusing on the larger ‘self.’
So how do you go deeper? Though self-study requires work, you needn’t be engaged in some lofty activity.
How You Can Incorporate Self-Study Into Your Life
Counterintuitive as it may sound, studying ourselves sometimes requires consulting sources outside of ourselves. But there is immeasurable value in learning to be still, to quiet the mind, and to begin this deeper exploration of asking yourself, “Who am I?” You may want to consult with a teacher or spiritual guide for inspiration and understanding.
Yoga is also of tremendous benefit. During our physical yoga practice, we learn to observe the responses of our body and the reactions of our mind. But yoga embodies so much more than just the physical practice of poses. There is breathwork, meditation, and the study of spiritual texts; all with the ultimate goal of unearthing who we truly are and uniting with all that is.
Some days, self-study may be a matter of paying attention to the breath while acknowledging emotions during a challenging situation. Other days it may take on the form of going to a counselor, journaling, artwork, or taking a personal growth workshop. The simple moment to moment practice of self-observation can produce amazing results.
At the end of the day, regardless of the vehicle, the practice of self-study unearths a deeper connection to the higher self – that ‘I’ that transcends definition and can only be experienced.
Would You Like to Understand Yourself Better?
We can bring yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices right to your organization, company, or school. And we provide our services either on-site or virtually – whichever meets your comfort level.
So if you’re ready to understand yourself in such a way that allows for deeper satisfaction, more peace, and better communication with others, then contact us today.
You’ll experience the true value of self-study.