Follow Self-Study with Action!

Our Writing and Consciousness journaling classes are taught from a yogic perspective. Yoga is commonly understood to mean “union,” referring to oneness with the divine. We also know that man is made in the image of God, and therefore, divinity lies within each of us. The Indian scriptures define our inner divine qualities as love, joy, peace, calmness, wisdom, sound, light and power. A purpose of journaling is to awaken these divine qualities within us, reminding ourselves that we are these qualities, while letting go of negative emotions such as fear, doubt, worry and anger.

Patanjali, the ancient sage of Ashtanga yoga, describes the path to enlightenment, or union with the divine, in eight limbs or stages (Patanjali’s Eightfold Path). Two of these stages are known asyamas and niyamas, or do’s and don’ts for right living. There are five yamas and five niyamas. The fourth niyama is swadhyaya, meaning self-study. (It is usually translated to “study of the scriptures,” but as Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Kriya Yoga master Paramhansa Yogananda, writes in The Art and Science of Raja Yogaswa translates to “self,” which means the proper translation for swadhyaya is “self-study.”) Therefore, self-study or “introspection,” which literally means “to look into,” is a major stage toward enlightenment.

Journaling is the tool that will help us master the practice of introspection. Swami Kriyananda, founder of worldwide Ananda communities, says, “Self-study begins with the careful observation of one’s thoughts, feelings and motives.” When we look inward, taking notice of our emotions and behaviors, we gain insight into life’s longer rhythms — the bigger picture of why things happen and how we can resolve situations. But the question that we must not forget to ask ourselves after receiving insight is: How will I use my will to move in a positive direction?

The key words in this question are “will” and “direction.” Swadhyaya, self-study, introspection, journaling…it’s all great but is essentially nothing if we don’t follow it with action. All too often, we relish in the sense of release after journaling — and might even pause in astonishment or bafflement after coming to profound insights — but once we set the pen down and tuck our journal secretly away, we forget about these invaluable, potentially life-changing insights as if they were simply rushed sensations, fading as quickly as they came.

This is fatal! When journaling, we should identify the direction we’d like our lives to unfold and exercise our will to move toward this direction. We can use our will as freely as we’d like, but without direction, we get nowhere. As all great yoga masters say, life is an experiment and we will never reach enlightenment or oneness if we don’t use our will in life’s laboratory.

In Writing and Consciousness classes, we come up with action plans and set intentions after identifying particular insights that have inspired a specific direction. We must remember with faith, however, that we must consciously and fearlessly experiment with our actions because, though tried, it’s true — we will never get anywhere unless we try. And we all want enlightenment and oneness, don’t we? So practice swadhyaya, a right-living “do” in yoga, and journal to find insight and direction. Then take action! And your fears, doubts and worries will roll away, as your love, joy, peace and calmness radiate. You will then begin to live your truth.