Exploring Swadhyaya: The Study of Oneself
Yoga offers a complete system of spiritual development through the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The second limb of yoga is known as the Niyamas or self-observations. When broken down even further there are five areas of self-observation with the fourth one being Swadyaya. When translated into English the term Swadhyaya means self-observation. Self-observation can be interpreted as many things and can be accomplished through many means. One way, for example, is to study sacred texts or scriptures to help us understand ourselves better. Other approaches include meditation, journaling, modern day therapy or simply talking with friends or family members who know us best.
I believe we best learn about ourselves through our relationships and daily interactions with the people around us. Over time we may be forced to change some of our attitudes, patterns, habits or inclinations because our old ways are just not working for us. These patterns are often hard to recognize, even harder to accept, and hardest to change. However, we might also be compelled to change some things about ourselves because we think that changing will make us a better person, make us more likeable, make us more successful, or because we want to please others. Doing this almost always results in failure.
The truth is who we are is part of our DNA. Anyone who has ever had children can attest to the fact that certain personality traits are evident almost from birth. Traits not taught to them by either parent nor by any caregiver. No matter how hard we work on changing ourselves there are some things that make us who we are and to change them would be fraudulent to our true selves. In fact, we all owe it to ourselves, to everyone we meet, and to life itself to always be an expression of our true selves. Trying to be anything or anyone else would deprive us of our true authentic self. Being inauthentic deprives the Universe of who we came here to be and what we came here to express.
Self-development and self-growth are all important practices to reach the ultimate goal of enlightenment or union with the Divine but we must tread lightly on the path and not lose the extraordinariness of ourselves along the way.