Svadhyaya: Self Study


Do you recall the scene in the movie Shrek, where Shrek attempts to describe his true nature by making an analogy between ogres and onions? Well, this scene where Shrek and Donkey are walking through a field of sunflowers came to my mind when I was trying to think of an analogy for Svadhyaya.  Making an analogy to another analogy to explain a niyama?  Lets see if this works!

shrek svadhyaya
Shrek: Ogres are like onions.
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes. No.
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry.
Shrek: No.
Donkey: Oh, you leave ‘em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs.
Shrek: NO. Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.
Donkey: Oh, you both have layers. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions.
Is Shrek Really a Yogi?   

Is Shrek Really a Yogi?


The subject of this scene is "layers."  Onions have layers that make up their whole.  Shrek was trying to imply he was just the same, that he as a person was made up of many complex layers.  We are that way too.  Our outer layer of our physical self is viewed by the world around us.  The physical body is a true part of our self, it is tangible and living.  Within that layer or vessel, lives our mind, emotion, personality, habits, experiences.  

Are any of these aspects more you than others?  Is the first layer of the onion any less of an onion than the inner most part?  Maybe the inner most layer is more protected, but the outer layer is part of the same plant, has the same DNA, and came from the same seed.  


Svadhyaya is accepting all parts of yourself as truth.   Once they are acknowledged as truth, you can make the right decisions to nurture the parts of you that nurturing and contemplate the parts that seem to be holding you back. 

As a practice of self reflection, you may consider the big and little parts of you.  For example, who are you at your core?  Those essential parts of you cannot be change, and shouldn't.  For me, my bigger inner self is an artist, and has immense compassion for all beings on our planet, and seeks purity in life.  I love this overarching definition of me, and don't need to change it. Smaller aspects of me, get anxious when making decisions, and have trouble resisting unhealthy foods, and get angry and frustrated when stressed out.  Those parts of me are real too, and need to be acknowledged as some of the many layers of self.

Asana and Meditation for Svadhyaya:
To incorporate asanas into your svadhyaya practice, choose postures like child's pose, and uttanasana, downward facing dog, or any posture where the gaze is directed back inward.  In meditation, quiet the mind and focus on the mantra "Sat Nam" translating to truth is my name.  Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings as they come, then bring your attention to the mantra. 

I hope this perspective helped learning or deepening your understanding of Svadhyaya!

P.S. Perhaps I could have used something more eloquent like the opening petals of a lotus flower to explain my view on the self, but talking about Shrek was way more fun. :)