Discovering the Self: The Art of Removing and Creating Habits
Heartfulness eMagazine|October 2021
Daaji continues his series on refining habits, in the light of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga and current scientific and yogic principles and practices. This month he shares his insights on the fourth Niyama, swadhyaya, which means self-study and self-awareness. It is one of the fundamental pillars of emotional intelligence.
By Daaji

I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing toward being a champion.—Billie Jean King

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. —Carl Jung

Yoga in action

Last month we explored the three Niyamas that make up Kriya Yoga, which means Yoga in action. In other words, how inner changes in our thoughts and feelings are expressed in our outer behavior. At the beginning of Part 2 of his Yoga Sutras, in the section on “practice,” Patanjali reminds us that:

2.1: Tapah svadhyayesvarapranidhanani kriya yogah

Austerity, self-study, and God-awareness together constitute Yoga in action (Kriya Yoga).

The second of the three Niyamas of Kriya Yoga is swadhyaya, meaning “self-study.”

Swadhyaya

Self-study requires us to turn out attention inward so that we can learn about ourselves. Now, that can be a daunting business when we don’t feel comfortable with what we see, but every culture has recognized the value of self-study so here we will try to solve the problem of how to face ourselves. Self-study has been the cornerstone of psychology from ancient times to the present day, in the East and the West, in mysticism, astrology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, yogic psychology, Mindfulness cognitive therapy, and many other fields. Modern scientific research also tells us that self-study and self-awareness go hand in hand with meditative practices. The two are synergistic. In Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence, he highlights the research showing us that meditation fosters emotional intelligence, of which self-awareness is one of the key pillars.

How can you learn about yourself?

Why do you need to look within to learn about yourself ? Knowledge from external sources, for example, observing the world around you, reading books, watching and listening to digital media, and talking with other people like counselors and psychologists, will no doubt give you some self-insight, but at best it is a mirror and a catalyst for self-awareness.

The most direct ways to learn about yourself are:

1. Meditation: Meditation with awareness = self-study.

In meditation you will be able to notice the play of your vrittis, the movements and vibrations within the subtle body. You may know them as your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. As you witness them, gradually you will learn how they arise, what motivates them, where they lead, and many other things. When this is done without attachment or desire, you discover that these vrittis no longer generate turbulence or entanglement. They simply pass, and you are free from their hooks.

Through meditation, you will dive into deeper dimensions of yourself, from the level of thinking to the level of feeling, and beyond. Self-study does not just stay at the surface level of your thoughts and emotions. You journey into layers of your being that you cannot access through conversation or a more analytic approach to self-discovery.

After meditation, when you take the time to acquire, enliven, imbibe, and become one with the condition you have received, you will become unified with that state (AEIOU) and develop your abilities of self-study at all levels, not just the mental level. The condition will permeate every atom of your being so that you embody the effects of meditation fully, then it will be absorbed at subtler and subtler levels of your being.

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