The Contentment in Right Action
Yoga is the practice of self-awareness. It’s goals are freedom, Self realization, divine expression. Satya is about living our truth. Finding our truth, both on and off the mat, can be challenging. Svadhyaya (self-study) is the means.
By Kathi Burke
A life story:
Recently, my directors announced that there would be no raises for the fifth consecutive year. We’ve grown too large and our profit margin too small. Despite their request for feedback, I kept my own counsel. My thoughts were most likely controversial ones and I have worked for many years on curbing my often passionate and impulsive flow of words.
After allowing my ideas to percolate, I wrote them. I suggested we increase salaries to a few, should there be a small overage. I advanced the theory that the youngest faculty, who were often repaying loans and prohibitive insurance costs were working for entry-level salaries, thus more negatively impacted by budgetary constraints. I proposed that the best and brightest of these were the agency’s future but also were most likely to be recruited to work elsewhere. I named a few and took the opportunity to share my pleasure in working with an excellent young teacher for the past two years.
Long story short, I made a mistake. I said something else. In order to dispel the characteristic notion that “no one is hiring”, I shared that I knew that at least one school district had already approached my exemplary colleague with an offer. I pushed SEND. Then, I was flooded with regret.
Satya requires us to take the next “right action” in any given moment. Just because something is truthful, it does not make it right to share. I called my colleague and told on myself only to find out that she and a few others had been given a retroactive increase two days prior from some grant monies. WOW! I was overjoyed! How wonderful!
Not even close. A day later the raise was retracted. The reason, of course, was my letter. They saw the fact that she hadn’t shared the offer as subversive and offensive. We were shocked! I was guilty of every possible charge I could muster against myself. We engaged in debating the fairness of their decisions for some time; and then it hit me.
Svadhyaya requires letting go of results and complete immersion of oneself in the process. At the core of self-study is the attitude of non-attachment. I’ve acknowledged my overly zealous nature. My passion can champion many causes well, but it can also obscure my truth. I recently read that through santosa we end the war with reality. When we are attached to a particular outcome, we often aren’t able to perceive truth. When invested in our own view, we obscure the views of others. Our curiosity in possibilities is suppressed; as we build our case, we move away from the core of our being.
This problem wasn’t about them, how rational or irrational their decision. It wasn’t even about my colleague. It was about my sharing information that wasn’t mine to share, an old character flaw of impulsive zeal. I stopped participating. I accepted full blame. I apologized. Then I went home and wrote a check. When I put it in the mail the next morning, a sense of calm and freedom returned. This summer, each time I choose not to make an unnecessary purchase, I am reminded to be grateful for the assistance in erasing a samskara, one of attaching myself too passionately to an outcome.
In yogic philosophy, samskaras cycle through many lives. Only through the awareness of these negative traits through svadhyaya, do we avail ourselves of the opportunity to grow into our divinity and to abandon these patterns. The object of self-study is an emerging awareness of the divinity within. The single most profound illusion is our misguided belief that we are separate from god. It is in birthing the realization that we carry the divine within us that we grow in satya and santosa.
The mat story:
While I’ve had a lifetime to work on the observance of self-study and the restraints of truthfulness, I am in my infancy applying these concepts to the mat. Seneca wrote: “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.” Getting caught up in my “story” of injury and poor health distorts my truth on the mat. Recognizing and embracing my improving health will serve me better as I relax into today.
Svadhyaya requires me to put my reactions aside with my “story”. I can learn to examine my fear, my distrust and my attitudes about specific postures truthfully and with curiosity only when I release my grip and practice non-attachment. I know from life experiences that when I invest in outcomes, I loose my availability for growth and contentment.
I find that when I approach the mat with fear, I am unable to remain still in body and mind, thus becoming unavailable to learn the lessons I require to grow. If I obsess about what I am “unable to do”, I will make that my reality. Letting go of fear will bring greater sensation, awareness and growth.
As with my zealotry in my work life, my fear of physical weakness and strength in balance may be another samskara waiting to be released.
Kathi Burke is the mother of three grown children and lives in Troy, NY with her husband of 40 years and her Jack Russell, Pepper. She finds joy as a speech pathologist working with young children and in teaching a movement form combining martial, healing and dance arts called NIA.