Svadhyaya | Self Study


“you always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself”

Glinda the Good


I have a confession.

I’m a 35 year old woman and I still have a Blankie.

Society has tried to shame me into getting rid of it. People have said, “you need to grow up, Sarah, and give it to another child who might need the comfort”. Or even more inappropriately the unsolicited advice comes in the form of “get it out of your bed so there’s room for someone else to get in your bed!"

But the truth is, I will never willingly give Blankie away.

We’ve been through a lot together.

Blankie, which has always been gender neutral, was made by my Aunt Sharon while she was in the hospital with breast cancer. I still remember the day I came down from the children’s ward to her bedside where she handed me Blankie to me wrapped in a white ribbon. Thought that’s the only memory I have of her, Aunt Sharon and I have had a special kinship because we were both fighting a battle with a silent enemy of cancer.

I brought Blankie to every hospital visit, every surgery, every examination. Blankie has been with me through college, as I sailed around the world and even in my brokenhearted darkness of aloneness. I have brought Blankie to ceremonies, to family reunions, to climb trees. In the terrifying and joyful moments, Blankie has been there.

Though I’d like to think that Blankie has superpowers, I know that is not the case. But Blankie does do something magical, it gives me a window into my own power.

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Svadhyaya is our theme this month with the focus of self-study and self-motivated study.

For many who turn to yoga for self betterment, meaning those who want to do something good for ourselves, it is tempting to look to these practices as ways to beat our bodies and minds into submission.

At this moment, it’s important to note that the historical texts of Hatha Yoga provide physical purification practices (neti - nasal cleansing; nauli - stomach churning; dhauti - internal cleansing) because the body was a hindrance to achieving Samadhi (bliss). In fact, many of the ways the ancient teachings have been translated from teacher to student though the generations carry this emphasis, that for some reason we are impure, contaminated and wrong as we are.

If you were raised, like I was, in the predominantly Judeo Christian/Capitalist/White Supremacist society of the West, it is hard not to interpret Yogic practices as a way to beat ourselves up so that we can achieve more.

I’m mentioning all of this conditioning because as we embark on learning more about ourselves, we must remember to observe and study ourselves without negatively judging.

But rather, we note what is.

On our path of deepened awareness, we will start to recognize the stories we have told ourselves for years which were once formed on partial truth. And since we are in the pursuit of goodness and bliss, we can eventually choose to align these stories with the whole truth.

So what is the Truth?

We are all unique and different and this is what makes us so special and necessary to the world. We need your perspective, your feelings, and your learned wisdom from a lifetime of experiences.

And within your individual self, there is also consciousness.

It is the intelligence of your heart beating without you telling it to beat. It is the wisdom of your skin scabbing over and mending a cut. It is the same insight a mother hawk has to return to the same nest each fledgling season. And it is the same knowing which turns the leaves golden as the weather chills.

This consciousness is everywhere, and you are it too.

It is the same with water. Waves aren’t separate from water. No matter the shapes the ocean takes, it is still water.

Same with you. No matter what shapes you might try to contort your body into, you are still consciousness.

This is why we have these practices. Because in order to get to know ourselves, to know our uniqueness and to know universal consciousness, we need others to help us see ourself more clearly.

These practices are a container of perspective for our self discovery.

That’s it.


———————

I hold Blankie to my face and take a deep breath. A few tears appear in the well of each eye as I remember some of the experiences we’ve been through and a favorite scene from Wizard of Oz comes to mind.

Blankie is just a piece of cloth well-worn over the years. No magic powers. It won’t help me become invisible or walk through walls. But Blankie does do something miraculous.

Blankie helps me remember that all the bravery, all the consolation, and all the companionship I’ve needed have been within me the whole time.


I just needed to learn it for myself.


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© 2019 Sarah Girard Yoga.

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