Adhyan means to deeply look into or study and Sva means the Self. Svadhyan is a process of self-study either through scriptures or through various life-given gifts. Svadhyan can be nurtured as we slowly nurture our contemplative mind. No matter whether we are taking up a commitment to read Scripture of some kind or simply taking a journey to understand one's mind and heart, the slow nourishing process counts.
I often find myself attending to my heart and how my heart responds to others around me, as my Svadhyaya practice. At times, I engage in rituals of reading and journaling as a practice, and other times I simply take in all the gifts that I am receiving from outside, this includes pain, suffering, joy, celebrations, and also challenging not-knowing moments. As I follow an inclusive practice to nurture my heart and her response to my lived experiences, I attend to how my body responds to these experiences and in turn how my mind begins to communicate with me. This process of not seeing the current moment through the older lens supports and builds the Svadhyaya practice.
This can be very challenging and asks us to nourish every step. As humans we tend to go towards what is known to make sense of the world, to get an answer and get convinced to see a certain pattern. But though this is comforting to be with the known, this is not Savadhyaya. Svadhyaya is the adhyan of the Self and how this Self acts.
Recently, I have learned that we come across people, practices, and places that have a role in our Svadhyaya journey. Mother nature always gives us various lenses to look within and it is on us to either let that go or embrace it as a gift on our journey of Svadhyaya. The practice of meditation either in the form of movement or stillness can offer us a window to look within. Look at what is visible, attend to what we attend to, and notice what we notice. Simple attention to where my mind goes (while reading/ walking/talking to someone/ sitting on a cushion) could be a start to a self-study practice.
My journey started with noticing how a certain movement as subtle as an eye movement, a flicker of my eyelash connects to my body as a whole. How does it feel? And how does it impact my presence? How do I see myself and how does this seeing impact the way I am seen in the world? Could showing up for others become showing up for myself and vice versa?
You are encouraged to take a pause. Notice where your mind goes. Notice how your body feels when your mind wanders or when your mind is attentive to a certain aspect. Notice how your body feels when you are angry and when you disagree with someone. Notice what you notice during the experience of being kind and even being rude to someone you love deeply. I am not encouraging you to be intentionally rude to someone you love. But, if you happen to have an experience where you lost your temper or experienced bitterness in your own speech, what do/did you notice?
I have come to learn that when we offer a lens of love during this process of noticing, that's when the magic of Svadhyaya starts! Love is the key essential element and a profound contemplative practice! Love is the key foundation in the process of Svadhyaya. Love then gives us the courage to accept what is in front of us, just the way it is. We can, then, attend to its impact on our hearts and minds. This process of kind attention has the ability to transform this love into compassion.
I also see that we need to honor the wisdom of the time during this process. At times this simple act can be as challenging as climbing Mount Himalaya and at others, it is what we start to follow, as our breath. This to me is where the magic of Svadhyaya begins and it all starts with attention! What are you attending to today?
Blog author Neera Malhotra leads Meditation & Contemplation at Unfold live via Zoon on Tuesdays at 5.30pm pst / 7.30pm cst.