The difference between school and life? In school you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson. - Tom Bodet
Last week I talked a bit about discovering and uncovering our "subtle essence". The divine space that lives in every living entity, including humans. The potentiality from which life springs and becomes what it was destined to be. After that moment of reconnection, I then began to think about the "What" and "How" behind the learning and discovery of this essence. What does it take, and how do we reacquaint ourselves with that which we can not truly know with our five senses?
This thought process brought me back to the Yama's and Niyama's. Specifically Svadhyaya, or self-study. What better way to find ourselves, than to study ourselves? This made me laugh because just two days ago I was thinking how tired I am of studying. How I just thought I wanted to slip back into a comfortable shoe of my past. How the studying to become competent in the wellness field, of reflecting on relationships and how my past actions and beliefs have been shaping my present experiences was feeling exhausting. Ha! Now I'm thinking about even MORE self-study! Well someone did say that when you stop learning, you stop living, so maybe I'm on track to live to be a grand centenarian, because this seems like a quest that has no end.
Svadhyaya, however, is more of a study of how we are using or not using all of our potential in this life. It is less about the educational or workshop learning, than it is about recognizing that within our perceived idea that we are broken or an imperfect being "needing more"; that we are whole and perfect "As Is" without apologies or excuses. Svadhyaya asks us to witness our own perceptions and veils of deceit and look deeper for our sources of inspiration and self truth.
In the book Meditations from the Mat, the authors state that “a delightful aspect of yoga is the “art of staying inspired (p. 118). Practice every day and stay connected to your own sources of inspiration.” (p.119) Constantly expose yourself to what lights your fire. Art, yoga, Orange Theory, poetry, movies, songs, teachers, leaders, books or nature. It doesn’t matter. It is YOUR source of inspiration; your personal fire that needs the right mix of kindling, tending, and observing.
When you notice your mental or physical energy waning and your desire for sleep seems to outweigh your desire to start your day, pause and breathe. Open your eyes a little wider, and take a look around. Notice if you feel inspired by your surroundings. Do you feel inspired by your clothes, your food, your home, your relationships? If not, maybe a change is in order. It could be as simple as changing a long-standing morning routine. Instead of waking, rolling out of bed and onto your yoga mat, maybe start with a bath or shower first. Feel the water on your skin washing away your lethargy. Stimulate a more creative meditation or yoga practice with a vigorous toweling off.
Becoming inspired doesn’t always mean releasing something, it could just mean changing the order of your playlist. Take a walk before your morning coffee. Leave the bed unmade and notice how you feel energetically. Have you become attached to your rituals? Have your rituals caused your fire to feel diminished? Routine and ritual can be soothing, we can feel productive and ready for the day with a solid routine; but, if the ritual has become rote and robotic, then we have become attached, and it may be time to pivot.
“Svadhyaya is about connecting to the energy you find healing and inspiring.” (p.119) Allow yourself to be open to the inspiration that is always around you. A conversation with the local barista, a billboard or bumper sticker, the funny habit your cat/or dog may have that makes you smile every time. Any of these examples and more can be fodder for your creativity. Look up! Notice when habits of thought, habits of action, or habits of the heart make you look for an escape hatch instead of crossing the threshold to play with your essence of potentiality.
Life gives us many opportunities to pivot. It is easy to say no and “stay the course”, it is comfortable there amid your goals, plans, and routines. What if you were walking down the sidewalk and a sign said “Free coffee” with an arrow pointing up a flight of stairs that held an unknown destination? Would you go, or would you walk by because it would throw off your schedule or touched on your fear of unknown experiences? This scenario happened in my own life, and I wasn’t interested. I wanted to walk on by, but I happened to be with a friend with a deeper curiosity and an understanding that a moment stepping off the path was really only a moment and we could always step right back.
That decision has resulted in a new friendship, meeting more new people, and contemplating other shifts in my life. That decision cracked a piece of restriction in my life, I hadn’t acknowledged. I have become comfortable and lethargic. Cocooned in my apartment, in my schedule, feeling lost and uninspired, ready to let go of my dreams for the comfort of something that once was. That one nudge from a friend allowed me to step back and witness myself resisting opportunity out of fear. It has created additional opportunities to step back and notice where I get in my own way, and it is teaching me to change my playlist. [Ironically a song I've never heard of by an artist I've never listened to began playing on Spotify as I was finishing that thought....Artist-Facesoul /Title- Grow-A colors Encore - Let me know if you feel it is as appropriate as I did when you hear it..I love the Universal intervention :-)]