the big question of svadhyaya.

I am the kind of person who knows EXACTLY what she wants to order before even suggesting we get ice cream. Which is why, when I am feeling indecisive or am around an indecisive person, it just about kills me. I know this about myself, I don’t even pretend to apologize for it because it’s authentic. But I also predict that I would (probably) live a more vibrant life if I could be more spontaneous (potentially) or accommodating to people who like to make spur-of-the-moment decisions (maybe). Either way, I know this about myself because I’ve done A LOT of self-study of my habits and tendencies (and also anxiety levels while waiting in line for my Ironman to decide which frozen custard to order.)

Svadhyaya is the intent to know yourself at your deepest, most authentic level through self-reflection and self-study. In yoga philosophy it is one of the five niyamas (personal practices) and it is important because our concepts of who we are determine how we see and interact with the world. My concept of who I am determines small decisions (like if I’m the kind of person who eats a cinnamon roll or a bag of broccoli) and determines big life-changing decisions (like if I’m the kind of person who stays at a job that is unnecessarily stressful and brings me closer to plucking my eyes out than it does to filling my bank account or the kind of person who is willing to quit and move on to a more fulfilling life.)

As life coach and author Martha Beck writes, “Our whole lives, all the actions we take are based on our concepts of who we are. Not knowing that one crucial fact undermines everything we feel, say or do.” According to Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras and this Martha lady, I sure as heck better figure out who I think I am.

Svadhyaya, or self-study, means that I should consciously and continuously seek insight, knowledge and wisdom that helps me understand myself better and that leads me toward emotional freedom, vibrant living and spiritual wholeness. I truly can’t think of a better life task.

One way to do this is through the study of sacred and inspiring texts. Read my current recommended list of svadhyaya titles here.

Another way to practice svadhyaya is through contemplation– asking the Big Questions. I wrote about a phenomenal practice to uncover the True Self through contemplation based on Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga back in 2015. You’ll definitely want to re-visit these posts; they get to the core of identity, ego and how to define/refine yourself on your own terms, not by labels that have been thrust on you by other people:

who am I? 

what is my driving desire?

how can I serve?

Currently, I’m meandering through a state-of-mind Martha Beck calls Dreaming and Scheming, so my self-study is honed on my need to be creative and my desire to thrive. My Big Svadhaya Question is this: “When do I feel fully and truly authentic, vibrant and alive?”

Of course, this is easier to answer when I already feel vibrant and alive. (Even imagining vibrant aliveness is oh-so-difficult when I’m down in the dumps… or a little tired… or hungry… or have the worst allergies… or am feeling disappointed about my yoga studio… or all the many things that make life so “lifey.”) So if you don’t have an answer today– I get it. I share this question with you because it’s helped me uncover who I am, define a concept of myself that I appreciate and continue an ardent svadhyaya self-study.

I’d love for you to consider it, sit with it for a few days, and then shoot me your answer. When do YOU feel fully and truly authentic, vibrant and alive?

One thing that helps me get in the mood for contemplating Big Questions is to take a few moments of silence beforehand.

Try one of my Free Guided Audio Meditations here: Guided Meditations

Or use this technique, which I first learned from Martha Beck:

Can’t wait to hear your answer–Happy Self-Study.

every day a gift: santosha

My natural inclination is to hit the ground running the moment my alarm goes off. And sometimes, I have to– teaching 6 am yoga classes means arriving at Westport Yoga KC at an indecent hour. 

But what I really crave is A Slow Morning. A morning that I can unwrap slowly, deliberately, with care and attention.

Years ago I was inspired by this quote from Thich Nhat Hanh and have held it close to my heart since. He says,

Every twenty-four hours is a tremendous gift to us. So we should all learn to live in a way that makes joy possible.”  

I’ve found that if I unwrap my morning slowly, like a precious gift, the possibility for joy, fulfillment and contentment increases exponentially. If I cherish my first stretch, spend an extra moment cuddling with Russell Clive, meditate first thing and drink my coffee slowly (from a real mug, not a travel mug), I start my day feeling tremendous contentment. I am ready to receive whatever the day has to offer.

It doesn’t mean that I’ll be HAPPY! every single moment of the rest of the day. Santosha, or contentment, is a difficult attitude to maintain. Because, let’s face it: happiness doesn’t always present itself tied up with a pretty ribbon every day. Some days go terribly wrong (hello, influenza B) and I’m frustrated, stressed and suffering.

Santosha is a possibility when I relinquish my expectations and choose instead to be grateful that I even get to open the gift of the day, regardless of what’s under the wrapping.

One way I increase my possibility for santosha is starting every morning in meditation– setting my intention that I’ll be open to receive. Whatever the day brings, I strive to stay open, grateful and aware of the preciousness of this day.

I hope this audio guided meditation helps you open to the possibilities of joy and santosha today.

“Open to Receive”

Happy Opening,

-lisa

Every twenty-four hours is a tremendous gift to us. So we should all learn to live in a way that makes joy possible.”  -TNH

add meaning to what is in front of you. #MeditationThoughtMondays

rock

A Cicada Symphony is my favorite summer concert.   The cicadas (although not the most beautiful insect ever invented) are companions on my evening walks and their song is the soundtrack to summer.  With their chaos in the background, my mind is quiet and free to attend to the embrace of the muggy summer air, the sharpness of the cut grass, and the fading evening light.  The white noise helps me appreciate singular elements of the summer evening that would be otherwise unnoticed.  It helps me appreciate what is already right in front of me.

You’ll remember from this Meditation Thought Monday article that we are exploring the concept of Silence this summer. Silence can do the same thing as the Cicada Symphony: it can attract meaning to the mundane.  When you have a comfortable relationship with silence, it becomes a backdrop that allows your mind/spirit to allocate meaning to ‘the little things’ that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Silence helps you appreciate what is already right in front of you.

In his book Silent Compassion, author and Franciscan Monk Richard Rohr points out that, “If something is not surrounded by the vastness of silence, it is hard to appreciate it is something singular and beautiful.  If it is all mixed in with everything else, then its singularity, as a unique and beautiful object, does not stand out.”

In this way, silence attracts meaning.  To add more meaning to the present moment, and all the little things that are already right in front of you:

Try this Meditation exercise:

  • Find a stone. It does not need to be especially remarkable.  In fact, it may be more useful if it is ordinary.
  • Find a piece of blank paper. Draw a line through the middle it. The line can be vertical or horizontal.
  • Place the stone right in the middle of the line. Place it right in front of you.  Sit with it for 5 minutes.

Notice how the stone attracts greater and greater meaning the more time you spend with it.

Notice how the stone anchors you in the present moment.  If the line represents time: then the timeline extends infinitely into the past and into the future. The silence around the stone, however, brings meaning and singular attention to the individuality of the stone and of the moment.

Inspiration from Richard Rohr:

“Silence is … a portal to constantly deeper connection with whatever is in front of you.  That which is in front of you does not need to be big or important.  It can be a stone.  It can be a grasshopper. Anything can convert you once you surround it with the reverent silence that gives it significance, identity, singularity, importance or value.”

Practice this Meditation Technique every day this week.  Notice how your relationship with the stone changes and notice how your relationship with silence changes.

rock

New to Meditation?  You’ll enjoy these Meditation Challenges, too:

sitting quietly

you have time

vacate. daily.

learn to meditate. your way.