Since completing my yoga teacher training, I’m better at paying attention. As I move throughout my day, whether teaching, practicing, working, or simply running errands, I feel the shift. It’s as if my senses have all been augmented. I notice a greater ability to slow down my actions, to expand my awareness, and to draw in the beautiful parts and pieces of this great big world around me.
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Paying attention means going for a run and noticing the six different types of purple flowers blooming in the first quarter mile; it means hearing the song of a bird in the early morning, and following the call until my eyes find the red-breasted warbler resting on top of the wooden fence-post.

Paying attention draws me to the scent of smoke from the campfire, the feel of the wind on my skin, and the taste of summer strawberries as they spill their ripe juice on my tongue.

To me, paying attention is not quite the same as mindfulness. I’m not reflecting on something in the moment; I’m not intentionally drawing my attention to a point of focus. Instead, I’m allowing my mind to expand outward, and beginning to see myself more completely within the world around me. When paying attention, I begin to notice a blurring of the boundaries of my own identity and the beginnings of deeper understanding of the world around me.

I see this as a way of practicing Svadhyaya. Svadhyaya, one of the Niyamas as taught by Patanjali, is described as self-study, or study of the scriptures.

This author describes Svadhyaya as a process of developing our inner navigator; of shifting ourselves out of the cruise control of our daily lives. By paying attention and self-study, we can come to better understand ourselves by coming to a closer understanding of what surrounds us.

Your experience may be different from mine. You may find Svadhyaya in the reading of texts, in meditation, or in personal reflection of another kind. You may find it in prayer, or in song. As unique as each of us is, our own self, our island of one, our practice of self-study will likewise be unique.

How do you find techniques for paying attention in your own life?

What does Svadhyaya look like to you?

Contributed by guest author, Holly Wielkoszewski, Yoga Teacher Training Alum
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