Has it ever happened to you that you found yourself in dire straits and began to pray or turn to some god, universe, life - even though otherwise you are not religious at all?
This happened to me a few times when I was a child, but no one in our family was religious and I was not taught to do so either. I think that even then I recognized that there was a higher power, but I was only aware of it in difficult moments.
I think a lot of Westerners are conditioned to spend most of our time very individualistically focused on ourselves, but when something bad happens to us, we start to turn our attention to something bigger than us. The opposite also happens: especially very religious people constantly direct their attention to a higher power and do not take responsibility for themselves and their lives.
This is precisely why I decided to connect two topics this week, two Niyamas, because I think it is very important to talk about them together: self-examination and surrender to a higher power.
Swadhyaya means self-study, i.e. self-observation, self-examination, learning about oneself. Of course, we're talking about it here as a yogic concept, and in my opinion, yoga is the best way to do it, but it's by no means the only way. Any activity that cultivates self-reflective awareness, can be considered as Swadhyaya. People are different and some get to know themselves best through playing an instrument, sports, a certain job, psychotherapy, meditation... Regardless of the type of practice, as long as it exists the intention to know yourself through it and the commitment to follow through no matter what, almost any activity can become an opportunity to learn about yourself. Swadhyaya means staying in this process through the good and the bad because we usually have the greatest opportunity to learn something about ourselves when when the going gets tough. Genuine Swadhyaya not only reveals our beautiful qualities but also our weaknesses, addictions, patterns and negative tendencies.
I have already shared my observation with you several times that when working on oneself, it often happens that the individual starts to focus too much on himself - and forgets his connection with others, with the world, with the universe.
The last Niyama of Ishvara Pranidhana reminds us to look beyond the ego. It means to become aware and surrender (pranidhana) to a higher source or higher forces (Ishvara).
To many modern Westerners, the idea of surrender as a virtue may seem strange. Also because we experience this surrender only in extreme cases, when we are faced with seemingly insurmountable problems or in some other way hit the edge of our individual will and ability.
But withbut to Patanjali, Ishvara Pranidhana is a powerful method to dissolve the endless agitation of the mind and thus a means of attaining Samadhi. Why? Because Ishvara pranidhana shifts our perspective away from being obsessed with “self” – with our narrow individual concerns and perspective. This causes the mind to become distracted and creates a sense of separation from our Source. By focusing not on the ego but on the sacred ground of being, Ishvara Pranidhana reunites us with our true Self. As an Indian yoga master says BKS Iyengar in his book Light on the Yoga Sutras: "By surrender the aspirant's ego is obliterated and grace pours upon him like a heavy rain." Ishvara Pranidhana provides a path through the barriers of our ego towards our divine nature – grace, peace, unconditional love, clarity and freedom.
It should be emphasized here that it is not simply a matter of redirecting attention from the inside out, to a higher power, as is done in various religions. This is precisely why I think it is important to talk about both concepts together and in a connected manner. The balance between dedicated self-exploration and trust in something higher than ourselves is, in my opinion, key.
What do you think about it? I will be happy if you share your thoughts with me 🙂
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