We have chosen a new practice for this month—Svadhyaya, the study of spiritual books to understand our True Nature. It implies that we read from sources of reliable wisdom and apply that wisdom to our lives. Sri Swami Satchidananda commented that it is better to study a little and really make use of it, instead of reading extensively without making any changes.
I often highlight passages in a book that are really hitting home for me. But if I don’t find any way of incorporating them into my daily life, a real opportunity is lost. It can be inspiring to turn some teaching into an affirmation–a concise, clear phrase that affirms in our own words a message which holds deep meaning for us. An affirmation can actively counteract some habitual thought patterns that we find ourselves falling into.
We can also turn a teaching we have read into something we actually do. Contentment can be practiced by daily writing down things we are grateful for. Compassion can be actualized by committing to one or two acts of kindness a day. A mantra can be repeated inwardly while we are doing almost anything as a way of sustaining a spiritual mindset. While studying the Yoga sutras recently, I was struck by the idea that the source of so much of our suffering is simply how fully we identify with our thoughts. Then I remembered Swami Asokananda’s suggestion to begin our meditation sessions simply by welcoming and witnessing any thoughts that may arise, a practice of dis-identifying with the thoughts. I started practicing this and am finding it very useful–it helps me be a little less lost in the ups and downs of the mind as I go through my day.
At the end of a long day, the idea of studying something pithy may seem like too much work. But even a few paragraphs from the Golden Present can reinforce the teachings we intend to live by, and repeated reminders of such wisdom helps reshape even the subconscious with the truth. I hope you find your own way to incorporate this beneficial practice.