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Who's to blame? Svadyaya: Self-study

The last two Niyamas get more esoteric and spiritual, especially compared to the tangibility of Tapas. Svadyaya--self-study--is not about getting to know ourselves better, it's about understanding that our true identity is Divine, but it's been buried deep within numerous "boxes" (Adele's metaphor), which are a product of our culture, upbringing, experiences, and choices. According to Adele, only by identifying these boxes through analysis of our projections on and reactions to the world around us and trying to see it as it really is (not through the limited lens of our own existence), can we forge a path to our "true identity as Divinity itself".

It's not easy to see myself as a piece of the Divine. I'm not entirely sure I believe it to be true. In some sense I guess I do; I believe we're all made from the same basic building blocks and I believe in universal experiences that bond us. When I'm feeling well-rested and optimistic, I believe that there is some unexplainable common thread tying us all to each other and to the universe--whatever that is. But what does it mean to truly understand that I am a slice of 'god'? How would I live differently if I really believed that? How would I regard and treat others and myself? These are questions worth studying.

We're still in quarantine, so theoretically I have plenty of time to study--myself and other things--but the variety of options on how to practice is limited. Limited to my husband.

Week 1 asks me to notice when and how I blame other people for my own problems and unnecessarily take responsibility for other people's problems that are not mine. I am to practice taking responsibility for myself and let others take care of their own.

This is some very interesting timing for this task. I am wrapping up week four of being in lockdown/quarantine. We have been asked to stay home and to wear a mask and gloves if we have to go out (to the grocery store or drugstore--the only things open). We are to stay 6 feet away from other people. We are being asked to do this not for ourselves and our own protection, but for everyone else. We, New Yorkers and Americans, the most self-driven, independent, self-absorbed, self-serving population, is being asked to put other people's wellbeing above our own. And many are struggling to do this.

Although I disapprove of their non-compliance, I understand it. Our country was built on independence and capitalism, a system that encourages individual striving at the brutal expense of anyone seen as competition. It's hard for us to change our conditioning overnight. Many of us have been told to only take care of ourselves, that other people's problems are not our concern, and now we are being told the opposite: other people's health and survival depends on us. My challenge for this week could be viewed as contradictory to what the government is mandating I do. But these rules were not intended for regular citizens living in society; they are intended for the ascetics who renounce society and material goods to live a life devoted to god.

Ways in which I blame others for my problems:

1. I blame my husband for everything I possibly can. This is the nature of marriage. I blame him for the general state of our environment: the messiness, noise, prevalence of screens. I mostly keep these grievances to myself, which only causes me mental strife and unhappiness, as well as a growing sense of resentment for my poor husband (one of four ingredients in a divorce sandwich). According to Adele I need to take responsibility for that strife that I am causing myself by letting what I perceive as his actions (or inactions) affecting me in such a negative way. I am feeling incredibly human and generally inept right now and not evolved enough to do this well, but when I catch myself internally bitching about the constancy of MSNBC and dirty dishes, I will try not to let my feelings get so involved.

2. I blame Trump and a vaguely labeled population of "dumbasses" who live in the middle of the country and voted for him for our country's problems. All of them. Because these problems are also mine. I guess if I really wanted to take responsibility for the effects on me personally, I would be more of a political activist, which I am not.

It is human nature to look for whom to blame when something goes wrong. It takes a lifetime of concentrated practice to mitigate this tendency, not just one week, but it's given me plenty to ponder.

Ways in which I take on others' problems as my own:

I used to take on other people's problems all the time, a self-inflicted guilt over not helping someone out if I could--but didn't want to--if they asked. Like a coworker needing a shift or class covered. But I stopped doing that because I wound up unfairly resenting the person I covered for. Now I only cover if I can and I want to. (*move para above here?)

On the other side of this coin are all the ways in which I am taking on others' problems for the benefit of everyone:

  • Wearing mask and gloves when I leave the house, even to run.

  • Not really leaving the house anyway.

  • Not hoarding essential items that everyone needs, like toilet paper and lysol wipes.

Week 2 instructs me to "Grow into full responsibility" for myself by noticing what I project onto others, reminding me that these projections are things that I'm unwilling or unable to acknowledge in myself. Adele asserts that we can't notice something in another person if it is not already present within us--the good and the bad.

I like this forced observation. One the one hand, I need to be reminded that what I criticize in others is something I'm ashamed of in myself on some level. On the other, brighter side, those qualities that I admire or envy in others also exist somewhere in me, theoretically.

Some negative projections I caught myself in this week:

--My husband is a hoarder.

In reality, I have trouble letting go of objects too. For example, I can't seem to toss my hundreds of CDs, even though I haven't owned a CD-player in over a decade.

And a positive projection:

--Everyone else is better at online teaching and videos and social media than me.

In reality, many people have been doing this longer than I have and have therefore honed their skills and abilities. That's just reality; there will always be someone better and always someone not as good as me at everything. The reality is that IT DOESN'T FUCKING MATTER.

Except that it kind of does. If I had been good at--or at the very least taking part in--social media for the past few years, I'd have more of an audience for my online classes and for posts that I've now been doing to keep myself relevant. I feel like I'm too late now. But I'm trying. So is there an Insta-famous celebrity buried deep inside me??



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