Skip to main content

Honest and Unmerciful

 Svadhyaya, one of the five niyamas (or observances) of yoga, literally means self-study.  Revered yoga teacher TKV Desikachar offered one of my favorite comprehensive definitions of svadhyaya as "Self-inquiry; any study that helps you understand yourself; the study of sacred texts."

The idea is that by studying not just our selves and not just sacred texts (whether they be the Yoga Sutras, the Bible - whatever sacred texts means to you), but by studying them both together, we can truly come to know ourselves and edge ever closer to samadhi, that utmost state of consciousness.

As a more secular yogi, I largely focus on the self-study part of svadhyaya.  This component can be explored through any activity throughout your day - the only thing you need is mindfulness.  Whether it's paying attention and being mindful of your body during an asana practice, watching your busy mind during meditation or a stressful subway commute, or reflecting on the way you handled a disagreement with someone, each and every moment of our lives is a constant opportunity for self study and reflection.

My favorite way to actively observe svadhyaya is through journaling.  I've been an avid journaler (which I will firmly insist to spell check is a word, because it's a word to me) since I was a kid and my mom gave my sister and I each beautiful new Lisa Frank journals to keep the summer I was 8 and she was 10.  As any girl growing up in the 90's knows, Lisa Frank was the designer name in school supplies!  The bright, bold colors and gorgeous artwork made the journal a really exciting present, but the knowledge that each page was mine to fill with my own private thoughts, opinions, stories, and ramblings and that no one would ever read it except for me - that made it a priceless gift that has kept giving and will continue for my whole lifetime.

There are so many benefits to writing regularly in a journal, including better writing and reading skills, but one of them has definitely been an increase in self awareness.  By checking in with myself through private journaling, whether I'm on a once-a-day streak (as I currently am and hope to remain!) or writing sporadically, I can keep myself honest about where I am with my goals, my relationships, my life's direction - you name it.  Because of the trust my mother established with me as a child by assuring me that this was one place I could be completely open and free, she helped me establish a truthful and open communication with myself that is invaluable.

One of my all time favorite movies is Almost Famous, starring Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, and the incomparable Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs.  A key line in the film that's often repeated is a piece of advice Lester gives to young reporter William Miller:  "My advice to you - and I know you think those guys are your friends - you wanna be a true friend to them? Be honest, and unmerciful."

For a journal to have true value, true benefit, and to truly be a form of svadhyaya, it most definitely requires you to be honest and unmerciful.  An honest journal enables you to be your own best friend, and as a reminder that no matter how much you change and how much everything else changes throughout your life (and everything does change), the only constant is you.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Magic of Brain Gym

I cannot believe I haven't blogged about Brain Gym yet!  That is absolutely bananas, and also sort of great because after a few years of incorporating the little bits and pieces I learned from Shari (founder & director of Karma Kids Yoga and the only boss I've ever had with whom I've also done crazy things like the pose on the right, which she named "fart neck"), I finally took the "Brain Gym 101" course this past weekend to learn more in depth about the what's and wherefore's.

Brain Gym is a lot of things, but what it is primarily is a way to facilitate better learning through movement.  Although it started in the field of education and helping children learn better, everyone can benefit from it.  You may be reading and writing just fine, but do you have a situation where you struggle to communicate your needs clearly to a partner, a friend, a co-worker?  Do you struggle with random bouts of unexplained anxiety that you struggle to release…

Home is Where the Heart is

One of the most cloyingly saccharine cliches of all time?  Yes.  True?  Also yes.  Sort of.

It's been an incredibly eventful three weeks.  At the end of June, my sister underwent major abdominal surgery to repair a major diastasis caused by two back-to-back large pregnancies.  On that same day Marc and I headed up on the Megabus to Massachusetts for a fun long July 4th weekend of family (including our two delicious little LeVasseur nephews!), wine, fun, and going through endless boxes of nostalgia from his childhood as his parents prepare to put their gorgeous house on the market.  The baby pictures!  The metric tons of books! The middle school poetry!  Oh, the earnest and terrible middle school poetry...

Then last weekend, I flew to SC for a whirlwind celebration of the twins' third birthday with family (third!!!), helping out my sister, who is recovering beautifully in every sense of the word.  Just shy of three days of nonstop work, play, and extreme highs and lows of overs…

Health Scare

I had a whole draft of a blog in my head all made up, but it has been a day.  And now that I've come down from all the life-stuff of the day, I'm left to ponder with a growing, nauseating dread what 217 elected representatives voted for today.

Forgive the pun-y and ridiculous title.  I'm just so afraid that this is our country now.

In case you're wondering who voted how, check out this helpful page in the NYTimes.

Listen - we all know Obamacare wasn't perfect.  But I know several people who would literally not be alive today without it.  I wouldn't have health insurance without it - and you better believe I use my health insurance.

Instead of having a group of adults who can intelligently discuss policy and talk about improving our health care system, we have a group of children who stick their fingers in their ears and simply shout about destroying any bit of legacy President Obama may have had.  They've denigrated this so deeply that there are literally p…