When I began practicing physical yoga I immediately felt a need to 'supplement' practice with self-guided inquiry. As I
had never really been interested in reading - partly because I had never really been interested in anything, much less the act of reading itself - I was surprised to find out how
voracious my appetite for knowledge actually was. The first few books that I read were Walden
(Thoreau), Everyday Zen
(Joko Beck), Waking Up
(Charles Tart); and each one for their own reasons created an explosion of curiosity. For the next two
years I spent about six hours a day reading; I even selected jobs that would allow me to read either all day or all night; some jobs even allowed me to read while
Towards the end of this two year period I began to think, 'There is so much good writing to read, but I will never be
able to read it all, so what should I do?'. My reply to this thought was to find and read the oldest written texts that I could get my hands on. I thought that if I could experience
the 'seed' of all written words, then I could do a pretty good job of having a relationship to the greatest amount of recorded thought.
Of course the most obvious ancient texts are the religious ones, and as my interest was falling in this realm anyway, my path had seemed to have clearly chosen me. So that is what I
did - systematically by religion I began reading the oldest texts in the world; in Hinduism: the Vedas, Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita, in Judaism: the Torah, in Islam: the Koran,
in Taoism: the Tao Te Ching, in Buddhism: the Dhammapada, in China: Confucius' writings, in Christianity: the Bible, in Zoroastrianism: the Gathas of the Zend Avesta.
Slowly it became clear to me that my interest lay mostly in eastern thought and spirituality. This combined with the
fact that the texts in the east seemed more accessible, in both style (poetic and aphorisms) and length, ultimately led me to focus on them exclusively. I selected
the Bhagavad-Gita, The Dhammapada, and the Tao Te Ching to focus my practice of svadhyaya. Each of these texts is only about 100 pages in length and could be easily read in a few days; one day if
In reading my three 'central' self-study texts, I recognized immediately the value of re-reading them. At first I began
re-reading them only as new questions arose; but then I decided to deliberately instate a 'reading practice' with these three texts. What I did was I would read them in order (the
specific order really doesn't matter; but once I chose I did not change), and when I finished reading all three, then I would begin again. I decided that I would do this indefinitely,
with no expectations of outcome or completion.
To 'balance' out this experiment I would also read a classical novel of interest alongside whichever of the 'three' I was currently reading. This would not only balance out any
boredom the repetition may cause, but also gave me historical perspective on things like content and writing style. Logistically this reading format also did something else
unexpected; it allowed me to read for far more hours in succession - as when whatever I was reading was creating lethargy, I would just switch to the other genre and back as
This re-reading practice went on for nearly two years, and as you might imagine I read my three central texts countless
times during this period. I mention this practice not as a suggestion to others per se, but rather as an example of what I did, at times deliberately and at others not, to practice
svadhyaya. When I look back on this experiment I can see the seed of what its cause was; the thought and feeling, 'I want a relationship to these three texts'. And now, as a result of
this practice, I feel like my relationship to these texts is well established.
Often I'll have a student or friend that wants a relationship to something or other, but then will make little or no
effort to grow the relationship. I wanted to know yoga, Buddhism, and Taoism; and at the time I was truly willing to do just about anything to grow my relationship and awareness
around these three thought systems. I was so very hungry for true knowledge, and this desire propelled me to go to great lengths to leave the old way of being behind.
I'm not saying that this is for everyone. But if you do want to shift your way of being in some way, then it is going to
take both wise effort and intention. I have one dear friend that often says in regards to doing anything, "the only part to doing it is doing it". So, truly the hurdle is finding out
'what' you want to know or do. Once you know, then the only thing left to do is to actually do it. And the great part is, is a practice is something you design to fit your own
intentions and capacity to put effort into it. I designed my own 'program'; what will yours look like?
I wanted to end my own suffering. I wanted to do it more than anything else in the world; and it is an endless process,
and the practice of svadhyaya continues to support me to this end. I hope that this blog helps support you to whatever end you would like to realize. If we break down the word
'realize' to 'real-ize', we see that it means to 'make real'. Svadhyaya is the practice of realizing that our life is really real; it is a practice, but not a dress rehearsal. Enjoy
your path to greater discovery, awareness, and freedom.