Many people pay therapists a ton of money to help them dig into their psyches and figure out what thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs prevent them from living their best life. Some people seek relief in religious or spiritual practices. Most all religious and spiritual practices teach self-inquiry.
The Psalmist says
“Search me, God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
The Catholics practice it in confession, the Buddhists practice vipassana, the yogis call it svadhyaya, people in recovery call it a 10th Step.
All of these disparate religious and philosophical traditions teach the same thing. In that case, it leads me to believe that self-inquiry is a part of a healthy and growing emotional and spiritual life. It’s a principle that all humans need to embrace.
I was chatting with my yogi friend, who shared a class he attended. We both love to practice in a hot room, but this room was stoopid hot like can’t-think-straight-hot, like oh-my-god-please-don’t-die-hot.
He said that people were leaving the room and going out to the lobby to dump cold water on their heads; they were rolling up their mats and leaving the class.
My friend, a strong yogi himself, said he spent a good bit of the class in child’s pose just trying to get his heart rate to come down. Oblivious to the people’s reactions, she continued to bark her sequence out come hell or high water. (Apparently, this class was hell).
As he shared his nightmarish experience, I thought to myself, this teacher was selfish. She was so tuned into what she wanted that she didn’t tune into what the class needed. Furthermore, she probably was unaware of her selfish ambition.
That’s why taking a hard look in the mirror is so important. Those of us who walk the spiritual path do it because we want to live with relative peace and calm. We want to be reasonably helpful to others. When our shortcomings stand in the way of our serenity and usefulness, we are off the path, causing us discomfort, irritability, and sometimes outright pain.
Honest self-appraisal creates awareness of these character traits that make conflict with others. Once we understand, we can accept the truth of our situation and then do whatever we need to do to be rid of those traits.
Fear says, “Don’t look too close!” Pride says, “You’re fine; you don’t need to look at yourself.” The result is a Tasmanian devil running roughshod over your relationships and your work. Think about the yoga teacher, selfishly pushing her class beyond what they needed to serve her vision of what a “hot power” class looked like. She missed an opportunity to serve genuinely, to show a yoga student the healing power of asana and breath.
Just for today
At the end of my day, I’ll reflect and think of anything that I could improve upon. If I wronged someone, I’ll apologize as soon as I can. And then I’ll ask my God to help me do better tomorrow.
“My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen.” Seventh Step prayer, from Alcoholics Anonymous.