The act of being open to discovering something you haven’t seen before is the first step in turning your life into something greater. But you have to know where to look. The best place is within. I call this “inquiry,” or svadhyaya in Sanskrit. Your willingness to discover yourself also acknowledges that you haven’t arrived and that there is more to learn. As B.K.S. Iyengar said, “The minute you think you’ve arrived, you get squashed like a bug.”
Inquiry can bring about empowering and permanent shifts in your quality of life, health, and being. That’s the work that we focus on in my new course The Power of Play Bootcamp.
I’ve learned that it’s good to remember that there is always more to learn and more to discover about who I am—my strengths, my gifts, my flaws, my fears, my pain, and my compulsions. I’ve seen that the instant I become filled up with my “knowingness” and know-how about something I tend to get stuck.
Sometimes, too, if you’re anything like me, you might get caught up in self-destructive patterns. But if we can see those patterns clearly for what they are and unlock the unresolved past, then it’s possible for that old energy to disintegrate in the light of our awareness. Then it begins to lose its grip on us and wither away. There is tremendous power in just knowing what is going on within—not so you can “work on your stuff,” but so you can begin to integrate it, shine light on it, heal it, and ultimately release it. If there is something or someone to forgive, you can open up to doing that work in yourself and creating a new way.
3 Ways to Practice Self-Inquiry
1. Be curious.
The next time you find yourself wanting to get out of a yoga pose because it seems too hard or frustrating or it’s triggering some reaction in you, simply pause, drop into your center, and check in with what’s actually happening. If it’s a physical thing that needs attention or some modification then take that action from a place of awareness. If it’s a mental or emotional issue hooking you in the pose, then don’t act on that emotion right away—be with it. Maybe it has something to teach you. When dealing with mental beliefs that come up in a pose, it can be empowering to ask yourself, What if I just got curious about what I’m experiencing? What could happen if I stayed in the pose instead of darting? By following your curiosity, you bring inquiry to the pose and a whole other dimension to the practice. Wonderment and curiosity are the tools of inquiry that give us access to discovery and new possibility.
2. Be open.
For me, I can see that if I want to continue to grow and discover, I must be malleable. And when I get fixed or rigid in my view and perceptions about life, others, and myself, I experience contraction. To be malleable is to be available for discovery. For example, sometimes when I was in Iyengar’s class and he started speaking, I would go into my default way of listening and immediately think, Oh, I know what he is going to say. Or worse, as soon as he would call a pose, I would tune him out entirely, and move into autopilot and just do the pose the way I already know how to do it. In those moments, I would have to shake myself awake and remember that I showed up on my mat to learn something new. And to learn something new meant I needed to look and listen in new ways. I mean, I was already there on my mat anyway, so why not open myself up, get curious, and perhaps discover something that could possibly change me forever?
3. Be content and unsatisfied.
If you achieve the physical skill and capacity you have been striving for in a pose or in your practice, there’s always another level of discovery available to you. That’s the beauty of yoga: It’s a mountain with no top. That’s where the invaluable process of inquiry comes in. Ask yourself, What crossroad do I find myself in at this point in my practice? What could I do, or not do, in order to open up to something that wants to emerge? This question affirms that the complexity and “never-arriving” quality of the practice is what gives it deeper meaning and bigger possibility. The fact that you can acknowledge you are at a crossroads gives you the energy to get through it. This intersection represents an unfulfilled desire to change your direction. It shows you what you want to put your attention on and what you want to take it off of.
by Baron Baptiste