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Svadhyaya—Our Next Step on our Spiritual Journey

“Svadhyaya means ‘to study, examine, and reflect on ourselves, our internal states, the objects of our senses, and the current condition of our body and mind, as well as the thoughts, feelings, and opinions that are so dear to us’.”

-Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, commenting on Yoga Sutra 2.1

There are five steps to the Examen …

1 Give thanks … for the blessings and gifts of the day…

2 Ask for light … from God, showing where God has been at work and present in your day… 3 Examine the day [noting the joys of that awareness and the failures of not attending to that presence]. 4 Seek forgiveness … Ask God's forgiveness for the times when you have acted, spoken or thought contrary to his grace and calling for you.

5 Resolve to change … your behavior [for the failures]. -Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, (n 43)

Svadhyaya—Our Next Step on our Spiritual Journey

By Michael Ketterhagen

As Pandit Rajmani mentions above, svadhyaya means “studying one’s whole self.” Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, a Catholic men’s religious community, taught his followers that they needed to examine their lives in detail. Both are sharing with us the path that leads to union with the Source of Life/God. Both are suggesting that we make a very conscious decision to look deeply at ourselves, our whole self, in light of the desire we might have to live a spiritually-oriented life.

As Pandit Rajmani states, this path is not just the study of our personality and our traits, hopes and dreams. This is the study of the deepest Self. In Yoga, it means studying all the aspects of our true being, from the smallest detail in our physical and mental worlds to the essence and nature of our universal consciousness, called atman. I like to call this atman our DIP, our divine, infinite, and perfect Self.

So, how do we examine and reflect on our deepest self?

In both the Christian and the Yoga Traditions, it means searching out the important sources in each tradition. It means reading deeply about people who have experienced the joy of union with God/Christ or who have experienced the fullness of their human lives like the yogi(ni)s. It means examining and understanding the practices of those who have understood unity with God, as manifested in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It means, for the Christian, reading the Bible and the lives and suggestions of Christian saints, like Ignatius of Loyola.

For the yogi(ni), it means examining and practicing the wisdom found in two great books of the Himalayan Tradition—the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, as well as the life of the Buddha who also was a yogi.

Spending time each day in thoughtful reflection on one’s day, or reading from those sacred texts or sitting in silent meditation before or after our day gives us the opportunity to learn so much about all the aspects of ourselves. We learn about how we are living our lives in reference to our spiritual desires to live a fulfilled and peaceful life, a heaven-blessed life, not only when we leave our bodies but also while we are here with all our physical and mental faculties.

I pray to the divinity in you!

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