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In my article on self-awareness, I had narrated how Yoga is helping me increase my self-understanding at the physical level. But ultimately, it is the mind that controls your body. When my body responds to an external stimulus in a particular way, it is because there is a master on the top chamber who is directing it.
According to Patanjali, the founder of Ashtanga Yoga, Swadhyaya or self-study is a means to understanding oneself. Understanding the microcosm precedes and facilitates knowledge of the universe. The self is a veritable treasure trove of knowledge. Explore and hunt for the precious knowledge inside you, thus unearthing your connection with the divine.
When I do Swadhyaya, I observe not only the physical reactions, which are only manifestations of the mind, but also the emotions that the mind is going through. I observe how I come through in my relationships and how I treat others. I inquire into my relationship with myself, such as my belief about who I am, what is my potential and how my attitudes shape my self-concept. My thoughts and actions in turn mirror deeper insights into my true self.
Swadhyaya is not about retrospection, but about watching yourself and inspecting your thoughts and actions as and when they occur. Imagine you are witness to a crime in your area. You neither stop the crime, nor run away, nor scream or alert the police. You simply watch it dispassionately and indifferently. Watch your thoughts with the same sense of detachment. You are not the subject (perpetrator of the crime), the object (victim) or the action – you are only the witness.
Patanjali espouses witnessing your thoughts, actions, moods and attitudes as a means to understanding yourself and connecting with the divine. Conscious relaxation during Shavasana is a good way to get a hang of detached observation. As the body cools down and relaxes completely, passively observe your thoughts as they come and go by. Delve into the mind, to reveal the inner, real you.
Most people would find it difficult to engage in self-study when you are already deeply engrossed at work or play. This is because the mind is in an active ‘beta’ state while working or speaking or thinking. How do I seamlessly transition into an ‘alpha’ state of conscious detachment, where I can adopt the attitude of a witness? It may require a lot of diligent practice, but once you begin adopting the learnings on the mat, off the mat – you have the key to the most precious library in the world.
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