By Myra Lewin
To be a human is to be in a state of constant change. From the moment we are born, we are dying. Every moment that passes creates some shift of energy, time or feeling. Even your body, as stable as it might appear, is in a state of constant renewal. But beneath all this change lies one thing that is steady and constant: you, as eternal spirit.
The purpose of all the practices of Ayurveda and Yoga -- meditation, mantra, eating for balance -- is to remember who you really are. As you come to know yourself as eternal spirit, you will learn to allow your true nature, not one of the many masks you wear, to guide your life. This creates joy and fulfillment beyond what you could ever imagine otherwise.
Letting go of identity
We put on many layers of identity as humans. This is not necessarily a bad practice; experiencing different states of being allows us to enjoy the fullness of life. The challenge comes when you become attached to these identities so that you forget your true self.
Just think of identities like clothing. When they fit well, they allow the real you to shine through. When they don’t, they are uncomfortable and unflattering. No matter what, you can be certain that you will outgrow them one day.
Meeting yourself -- your true self -- means seeing who you are far beyond what you do for a living, who you are married to or where you live. Yet because we live in a world that asks us to look everywhere except within, few of us develop the discipline and faith that is necessary to peel back these layers of identity and face the groundlessness of them. But this is an important practice -- in understanding the impermanence of identity, you can make peace with the changing nature of life and release attachment to anything external. It might surprise you to know that in this state, you will be able to enjoy life more. That is because when you release attachment, you can see and value the experiences for what they are.
Swadhaya, or self-study, to meet the real you
When you walk down the path of uncovering your true self, you see why the teachings of Yoga and Ayurveda are so important. Whether you are observing the state of your mind as you learn to lift your body into lolasana (pendant pose) or practice cooking as an opportunity to expand your daily awareness, you are using the tools in these teachings to direct yourself to look within. In this place, you’ll find something far more expansive, stronger and beautiful than you could ever imagine.
One of the niyamas of Yoga is swadhaya, or self-study in light of the spiritual texts of Yoga and the teachings of the sages. Swadhaya is an unfolding of the light within you. As you take in the teachings that have guided spiritual study for centuries, you'll begin to understand how you can live Yoga every day of your life.
Most of us grew up in an education system that emphasized rote memorization. This is not the same as swadhaya. The purpose of swadhaya is not to quickly read the Bhagavad Gita so you can say you’ve done it, but to apply the teachings to your life. That is how we transform into who we truly are. Fill your experience of self-study with sattva, balance and harmony.
Begin by setting a sacred space. Take a few deep, conscious breaths, chant mantra or pray internally -- whatever will allow you to access the higher realms of intelligence. Set the intention to leave behind your previous limits, and walk bravely into the unknown. Read a sutra (a concise thread of information) or a few lines of a spiritual text and then contemplate how they apply to your life. Find a way to bring the purpose of this teaching into your daily life. Then go out and live it.
It is common to get frustrated at your progress when you are learning something new. At other times your experience might fill you with joy. Let your practice in swadhyaya be an opportunity to identify your tendencies and move beyond them. Be willing to let them go.
Be prepared -- this work will bring about great shifts. Remember that the magic happens outside your comfort zone. Like a diamond being crystallized, swadhaya allows you to grow into the most beautiful version of yourself.
Digging wells: Going deeper in your study of self
Bring swadhaya into your life by digging deeply into one practice of self-study at a time. If you choose the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, make space to read small bits at a time, savor the teachings then observe how they apply to your daily life. Don’t rush -- enjoy the process.
Notice the difference when you truly go deeply into your practices, versus hopping from one activity to the next. Over time, you will find that you will create a more profound and lasting connection with your true self when you focus on less, not more. The idea of doing the same thing every day may sound boring (calm vata dosha and that will soon fall away), but when you greet your practices with fresh eyes, you’ll learn something new at each turn.
As you go through your practices, keep a journal to release the old feelings and take note of how you respond to this unfolding. Revisit old entries to see where you once were and use this as encouragement to keep going. Bring in the tools in our Intuitive Energy Practice (get a free download here) to aid this release and let go of your previous limitations.
The beauty of swadhaya is that there is nowhere to get to. Your eternal self is limitless and as expansive as the universe itself. Meet it today, meet it again tomorrow. You’ll be surprised and delighted at what you discover each time.