In the Tuesday class since Christmas we have been looking at the niyamas, which are 5 tenets for our attitude towards ourselves which support a calmer, quieter mind. They offer us a way of being with ourselves which leads to less internal chatter, an eternal cause of anguish.
One of these is svadhyaya, or self-study. This might be about taking time to devote to education and learning. It can also be about self-reflection, using everything we do as an opportunity for learning about ourselves. Everything we do is an insight into what makes us tick, right down to our choices of leisure activities.
Since carpal tunnel syndrome required me to give up many of my previous activities (that can be done in Birmingham!) I have taken up watercolour painting. Completely self-taught from books and videos, I realise I needed to have started a good 30 years ago if I ever hoped to achieve some mastery over this challenging medium! But still, I press on. That in itself demonstrates to me my attitude to a challenge – do I persevere in the face of adversity, or hide my head to avoid the problem? When my painting goes badly, what is my response? Everything I do teaches me more about myself if I am prepared to listen.
The way I approach the task also reflects my natural tendencies. I have always liked working with small things – beads, stitching, fine details. And that comes out in my painting. It is proving really difficult to move to a looser style of painting and resist the draw of recreating each fine detail. On the other hand, do I have the patience required for that painstaking work? Again, more is revealed if I am open to seeing it.
Yoga gives us a framework for life far beyond the performance of a set of complex asanas on a mat once a week. The niyamas are that blueprint for learning to live with yourself…and ultimately that is one person you cannot live without. Our only hope is to ensure that person is someone we really want to spend time with!