Being True to Yourself
Do you really know who your true self is?
As we enter the month of June, take a moment to reflect on the month that has just passed. How did you spend your time? What intentions did you set for yourself? Did you, like so many others, wonder about your place in the world at a time where all that is familiar and established appears to be unhinged?
Indeed, being grounded at home for an extended period of time, free from the usual flurry of distractions, has given us the opportunity to sit with svadhyaya, the fourth niyama of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras which refers to the notion of self-study or study that is conducive to self-knowledge.
The desire to know the self is a seed that is embedded deep within each of us. When you were born, your parents gave you a name. But once you take that name away, how would you describe yourself? Who are you? Are you the designation printed on your name card? Are you a mother, father, daughter, son? Teacher, student, healer, messenger? Is the person you are today the very same one you were yesterday?
Ancient tales of every culture attempt to make sense of who we are and reflect our search to be whole. Folklore is rich with stories depicting a protagonist that discovers his calling early on in life. And as he accepts and embarks on his challenge, his mission brings him through trials and tribulations, transforming and resurrecting different parts of his being as he wades through hell and high water. But when it comes to our lives, our mission or road map is hardly clear or linear. Why are we here? Where do we go from here?
This enigma of the self and its higher purpose has had an enduring hold on the human psyche and has carried through to contemporary times. In fact, this search for the self is one that Swiss psychologist Carl Jung refers to as the individuation process, or the process of becoming more aware of oneself. According to Jung, we spend the first half of our life making it through the world, attending to mostly external matters as we try to fulfil our basic needs.
The second part of life, however, marks a pivot towards a deeper part of ourselves, and it is here that Jung’s process of individuation begins. Uncovering the authentic self, so to speak, is then a layered process akin to peeling back the skin of an onion to reveal its essence. Similarly, Abraham Maslow’s famed hierarchy of needs puts self-actualisation at the very top of the pyramid.
Take a minute to consider that your quest to find yourself could begin the very moment you arrive on your mat. Indeed, the techniques of yoga not only purify the nervous system, but gently lead the mind inward to unlock a greater degree of consciousness. Kundalini Yoga – often referred to as the Yoga of Awareness – in particular, places as much emphasis on meditation as it does on asanas.
The act of meditation, itself one of the eight limbs of yoga, helps to refine the mind’s ability to perceive, and in doing so, brings us closer to the subtle level of the Self. As we meditate, we go through the various levels of thinking, feeling, intellect, and ego. For the Self to be understood, the mind has to grasp both the subjective and objective states of existence.
As you study your self, you begin to realise that many aspects of your personality, ego, and identity have been conditioned by past experiences.
So when you settle down in lotus position, take a moment to check yourself in. We are very often not present with ourselves; we’re thinking about the things we need to do, the headlines we read in the papers, and the problems we need to solve. So as your mind begins to wander, gently bring it back to your in-breath. It sometimes feels impossible to free ourselves from this endless stream of chatter in the mind, but in those moments where we are fully present, we can begin to glimpse the space between our thoughts.
As you study your self, you realise that many aspects of your personality, ego, and identity have been conditioned by past experiences. In order to free yourself of your learned habits – especially those that are no longer serving you – you have to work at recognising your true nature.
Indeed, the journey inward is long and winding, but if you centre your intentions on committing to this journey, you begin to find an alternative to the cramped world of your attachments and enter the spacious experience of just being.