One of the my favourite teachings from yoga is that of Svadhyaya, the niyamas (personal observances) as outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras around 400CE. Svadhyaya refers to the illumination of wisdom through the study of sacred texts and also of study of the Self and is part of the great pathway of teachings that lead us to understanding of who we truly are and maximising our innate potential.
With the recent passing of the winter solstice and the longest night of the year, I was reflecting on our dark nights of the soul and in particular those shadow and rocky times when we can find it really hard to be okay with who we are, let alone to be powering down any path of self study and growth.
I got to thinking of the fine line in the act of self-acceptance in order to study oneself. Indeed in order to move towards growth of ourselves, self-acceptance must first form part of our foundations like strong and sturdy roots from which we can fall back on and rely as we wobble and ascend.
Just as in order to truly love another we first must love ourselves; I believe that in order to invest in improving and growing ourselves we must first be okay and comfortable with where we are at right now. The magic of this radical and unconditional self-acceptance is that we can then be transformed to a place of loving ourselves and where we are at, rather then feeling we must hurry up and “improve” upon ourselves or our lives in order to “get to” or “be” someone or somewhere else.
Instead, from learning to practise the gentle art of acceptance, we can embrace and cherish ourselves a little more each and every day and we can find that other seeking and feelings of lacking starts to lessen and soften in those moment of radical self-acceptance.
When we are ready to move forward in new and challenging and different ways, we can then be more confident in knowing that we are coming from a place of greater self-love and acceptance already and so that whatever we do, we know that we are in the right place and will be successful for our self worth.
The teachings of yoga, whether through working with a yoga pose, a breath rhythm or a mindful meditation practise; all invite us to strip back veils of illusion or maya. These veils may take the form of anxious mental chatter, of ignorance, of false ego, of misunderstanding of our true nature, of comparison or of the desire to want to be something or someone else. Instead when we are in the true and present moment, all we have and all we are can be revealed to us.
In this way yoga helps us embrace all parts of ourselves including the shadow and light sides and helps us learn to be okay with ourselves and not restless and caught up all the time in maya and past and future and trying to escape who we are in the moments when we don’t accept ourselves.
Yoga in its nature is about acceptance and being mindful and present with what is. It helps us learn that we can be okay with not having it all worked out necessarily in that radical self-acceptance. Being okay and creating space around what it is we may eventually want to grow or change or transcend can allow for a path of dynamic growth to open while remembering that we are already coming from a place of fulness and self-acceptance.
The art of self-acceptance is a great and challenging practise in and of itself and one that continues to bring endless benefits when practised and persevered through – more confidence, more self faith, contentment, peace and trust and being a better “best friend” to ourselves which I think is one of the most priceless arts.