There is a great line in one of my favorite movies, The Royal Tenenbaums in which Gene Hackman’s character, Royal is leaning out a window and shouts down, “I know you asshole!” to Owen Wilson’s character, Eli Cash. Eli simply stares back at Royal whose character is a deeply flawed husband and father and a bit of a cheat! Royal no doubt “knows” Eli because he is a reflection of himself. The line is a running joke among a few friends and it is often what I imagine my daughter is saying in her head when she glares knowingly at me with her enormous eyes (she’s done this ever since she was a baby – she has a way of seeing right through anyone’s BS).
Interestingly, as much as we think we “see” other people for what they are, as much as we observe, over-analyze and place judgment on others, how well do we really know ourselves?
The fourth niyama in the 8-limbs is svadhyaya, self-study. Svadhyaya asks us to turn inward and look at ourselves, every part. The good, the bad and the ugly – however, we are seldom able to do so fully and honestly and definitely not without judgment right?
Svadhyaya is a practice and it can be a really annoying practice! Observing our every thought, word and deed can be a chore, not to mention feel self-absorbed. In the long run however, it becomes a necessary step in growing your yoga practice.
Svadhyaya, like the whole of yoga, is a practice of self-awareness. Begin by taking just a few moments a day to check in with how you are feeling. Notice the quality of your breath and your thoughts. Whether judgment or contentment arise, simply notice. Rather than feeding either thought, feed your breath.
Once this process of checking in becomes a practice, work to extend it to several times a day. Then use it at work, on your mat, when you are with friends and family, even in your car. This is a very simple and effective tool to bring awareness into your life.
Whatever you do though, take the “asshole” out of it! Try to take the mental chatter and judgment out of the process. You will be amazed at how simply being aware of how you are feeling and the quality of your thoughts is enough to bring about change in your behaviors.
Want to go deeper? Consider journaling. . . I would love to tell you I do this daily, but it is a practice. I continue to do the work. It is a beautiful practice. All of this working to observe ourselves, to become more aware is great, but what in the hell are we supposed to do with all of the observations? Let’s be honest, negativity and judgments are bound to come up. Instead of allowing it to stay in your noggin – GET IT OUT, WRITE IT DOWN. It is a great way to move on.
And one last thing. . .
Don’t neglect to notice the good; the pleasant thoughts, the things that you enjoy, the things that bring you pleasure, what calms you. When you understand this aspect of yourself, you can more easily use it as a tool in your life. You can direct your energy into your passions. This is when “I know you asshole” can transform into. . .
“I know YOU”