Self Study on the road as I drove to a friend who was assisting me in building this website…
As documented in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras svadhyaya or self study is listed as the fourth Niyama or daily observance. Each observance provides us with a practice to apply to our day to day activities as we open toward our spiritual path. Svadhyaya, sometimes spelt in english as swadhyaya (to assist pronunciation) in itself has an inner series of practices: studying the scriptures; viveka – discrimination; contemplation; witnessing and cultivating awareness. These are all discussed beautifully in this article Swadhyaya (Self Study)
What I wanted to add here is how once we begin on this path the practice of svadhyaya can become less self conscious. It actually occurs naturally through us once we have planted the seed. Yes, we may consciously choose to read a yoga sutra a day or a verse from the Bhagvad Gita and contemplate these teachings as we move through our work, tasks, chores and interactions, but insight may be gifted to you when you least expect it – spontaneous svadhyaya.
It happened for me this week, as I said I was on the road driving in my car focused on the route I was taking, and not particularly thinking about anything more when the Spirit of Things program came up on the radio. Rachael Kohn was interviewing the musician Ben Lee – so whilst it is a program about spiritual things I had no expectation of a spiritual shift inside me.
A little aside here to give you some back ground. I, in my middle years have embarked on yoga teaching this came about as I hit some personal road blocks and I could no longer ignore that the corporate world was not my fit – I also needed healing. Along this journey of setting up on my own to teach self doubts crept in…the difference when practicing yoga is that you have a tool box to reach into when you need to work effectively through ‘stuff’ – however at times I need to repeat lessons again and again. Sometimes the tool box actions are not quite enough – you need someone to articulate things in a different way so that you can have an aha moment – a flickering towards your own inner light.
Ben Lee did that for me. His words resonated on several levels.
Those times when you feel knocked flat, that all your efforts are not getting you any where. My motto for those times is ‘Do the work, keep showing up’. Yet, if we repeat our mottos too often they become brittle. Lee reflected on belief systems, that any system needs to be practiced with an open heart, to really activate a spiritual system you need to reach into the juiciness. This is essential when practicing a religion where you can get caught by tradition, ritual and perhaps through ego-expectations you let the heart close in an effort to be a perfect practioner. It is also essential within svadhyaya. Keep the heart open and the juiciness will follow. So for Ben when despair knocked on his door in the form of criticism it made him… “I made more music…I kept going…you can’t allow yourself to become stagnant…waiting…The Buddha’s test: only one person needs to ‘get’ my work…only one person.”
Lee distinguished between Jesus the individual and Christ the consciousness.
He applied this to Swami Narayani Amma. Who is both an individual Lee visits in India and female consciousness an expression of the divine mother who took him closer into the embrace of understanding, feeling unconditional love. Amma said to him that music was his dharma but he questioned the what and the how of music and Amma answered “bring joy”. In that moment Lee understood that through his music he served others, his music was the offering. Once he could envision music as his ‘offering’ criticism of his work was no longer relevant – “this is my offering to you, enjoy it or if you don’t move on.”
“I feel guided …how if we get with the program, the rhythm of the universe and allow it to turn me[you] into what it wants me[you] to be… the universe desires us to blossom, unfold”
In the svadhyaya series after studying the scriptures we practice viveka-discrimination the opportunity to…as Lee says:
“In any moment we have a choice to move towards the divine or choose self importance, materialism…a sort of spiritual death” There is a magic moment before we perform, any action that allows us to choose wisely. In choosing wisely any one of us when following our true path to serve can become a ‘Peak Experience Generator’ (Lee references Ken Wilbur in reference to actual performing) where our offerings given with an open heart take on a heightened status purely because we have drawn on our inner light to create and offer to others.
Before any action surrender to the gift of the moment that allows you to draw your offering up from the divine within you. Know that your offering when it comes from awareness is just that an offering, your offering of joy. Self doubt no longer has currency.
Thank you Ben Lee and Rachael Kohn