Originally posted in 2017, this is a message that I felt bears repeating.
In his book Sadhana, the Path to Enlightenment, Swami Rama said, “Whatever you know about yourself, others have told you. You have not yet known anything original about yourself. You are a stranger to yourself and that is the cause of your suffering. When you study yourself from within you will find you are entirely different than what you thought you were.” (Pp. 230)
Yoga provides methods to come to know yourself through direct experience, rather than from what we hear from others. Swami Rama says that when you begin to know yourself in this way, “Then you will no longer identify with the body or the environment in which you live.” (Pp. 230)
The key to knowing yourself in this way is to develop and refine your awareness.
“When you decide to know yourself you can start by studying your actions and developing awareness of your body language…You have habitual ways of carrying your body, positioning your body and making gestures. This is called body language.” So, a first step is to observe how you move and hold your body.
You can also “Observe how your body changes and how free it feels when you are joyful and how it tenses and contracts when you are angry.” (Pp. 230) In this way, you learn how you create your internal experience.
Going deeper, “You can begin the study of your mind by examining the conscious mind. Observe what is going on in your mind and find out what it is that makes you emotional. Examine the habit patterns that make up your personality and try to find how you formed those habits.”
Once you know your mental habits, you can begin to change them if you wish. “If you make effort you can undo habit patterns by training your mind to create new grooves so it no longer flows to the old grooves. This is the way to completely transform your personality.” (Pp. 231)