The Yogic Principle, Svadhyaya, is about self-study:
Svadhyaya asks you to look inward and get to know yourself better. It teaches you to feel the difference between your own natural rhythms and the cadence of the world around you. It can teach you what's practical and healthy to focus on, and what you may need to delegate or drop. (Yoga Journal - http://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/2622)
Though I learned this in my Yoga Teacher Training, it was a practice that I had begun cultivating many years earlier through traditional therapy and 12-Step Recovery Programs. It is, for me, about being mindful of my actions and reactions, thoughts and feelings, experiences, choices, desires. It is a practice of being gentle with myself; of learning to treat myself as I would a dear friend, with love and support, attention, interest, and value. I often practice following a thought or feeling along a path, inquiring of myself and it what more it has to tell me or where it originates, sometimes even where I feel it in my body (somatic sensations).
As I reflect on the end of the year, begin to set goals for 2013, continue my adjustment to San Antonio and building a life and community here, and reflect on some very emotionally trying experiences of the last few months, I find myself increasingly focused on this principle of svadhyaya. If we are to know others, and others us, oughtn't we first know ourselves? How can we set realistic expectations for our lives if we don't know the roots and networks of our own actions and beliefs? Many of us spend a great deal of time being busy - sometimes by choices, sometimes by circumstances...sometimes as a way to avoid this practice of svadhyaya. We are human doings instead of human beings, frequently.
For me, the practice of self-study is the most important thing I can choose to do in a day, the most important thing for me to make time and allot energy to do mindfully. If I am not examining from where the decision to do charitable work comes, can I truly be giving selflessly? If I don't know on what the lessons I teach children are based within my beliefs, can I be sure I am teaching my truth?
Consider taking some time to think about this, and find a practice of self-study that is right for you. I am committed to an ever deeper practice of svadhyaya in the coming year, if for no other reason than without it, I don't believe I can be the most loving and authentic human being, for myself and my students, possible. To be less is doing myself and them a disservice, and listening and learning from the messengers in life is much more peaceful than fighting or ignoring them.