We each see and interpret the world through our own eyes and limited personal experiences. Each day we write, act in, direct, produce, watch and critique our own movie of every day life. So how can we know if we are right? And if I am right, does that mean you are wrong?
in sanskrit means ‘to see the self clearly’ through the practice of ‘self-study’. It is one of Patanjali’s niyamas and, what I am calling, the ten principles for living happy
While I accept that overdosing on ‘navel-gazing’ can cause you to miss the bigger picture, I think that a little more self-awareness would go a long way toward more peace and tolerance in the world!!!
Learn from life experiences
I really like the idea that our soul is guided toward that which will illuminate it. In other words, we are given or we seek out, often sub-consciously, opportunities to grow and evolve. Everything happens for a reason!! I like this because it helps me soften into life, open up and find meaning, even through the hard times.
These opportunities come through relationships, intimate or not, professional situations, our health or decisions in life, for instance. We may continue to find ourselves in similar situations and repetitive patterns until they have served their purpose and we have taken the opportunity to grow. These experiences are not necessarily good or bad. Granted, they may be more or less challenging. But it is only us that attach a label of good or bad, fair or unfair, right or wrong. Pain may not be avoided, but suffering is a choice!
Watch out for angels in disguise
A former boss of mine, at one time seemed to be the cause of my suffering. I was on the verge of burn-out, unable to complete a days work, physically and emotionally exhausted, lacking self-worth and unable to see beyond the burden of this relationship, as if he held the key to my happiness. In my desperation something shifted in me. It may have taken a long, hard 18 months to see it but when I finally got the message I recognized that this man was actually a gift and a teacher. He allowed me to become aware of and break a negative pattern that had been a driving force in my life for more than 30 years. From one day to the next our relationship changed, because I had changed. I’m not sure though he really understood me when I told him one day that he was my spiritual teacher!!!
Have the courage to resist nothing
The concept of Svadhyaya encourages us to observe ourselves as we go through everyday life. Rather than ignore our faults, hide our weaknesses behind a mask, or engage in self-loathing, we need a lot of compassion to acknowledge and even welcome them. It takes courage to stand still to receive critique, admit when wrong or face difficult situations. But as we learn to stick to the process and let go of resistance, we may find that these challenging times provide the greatest opportunity to evolve.
Spread compassion through self-compassion
By offering yourself compassion and understanding in the first place, you are effectively training yourself to offer that same attitude when faced with faults or weaknesses in others. And here, I believe, is the potential for greater harmony and tolerance in society. It all begins within the Self!!
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Step up to fulfill your potential
Self-study is not just about self critique!! It is just as much about pushing the boundaries of your self-limitations. In life we may be drawn to fulfill our potential through sport, art, creative writing, cooking, music, science or medicine for example, or as a teacher, leader, volunteer or parent. Every individual has a different, unique way and unique purpose. Not everyone though dares to explore all they can be!
Learn from others
Interestingly, I think we can learn a lot about the Self through interaction with others. The greatest test of personal growth can be spending time with your parents and family!! When a friend makes a sharp personal comment or a neighbor vexes you, right there, in the fire of your reaction, you are faced with an opportunity to become aware and grow. You may choose a habitual and unconscious way to react or you may catch an insight into your fears, complexes and judgements. Mindful sharing, listening, reading, following various therapies and learning with teachers or trainers are also hugely valuable contributions to an ongoing process of self-study and evolution. There is so much to learn from those who have gone before us, as well as those who are experiencing life as newcomers!
Overall, I think an open, mindful and compassionate self-study goes a long way in helping us to see more clearly to find what is important, to see others beyond their facades and to make peace with life’s ups and downs.
Happy studying my friends…