I spent a decade in Philadelphia. I moved there shortly after graduating from college and left after my divorce was finalized ten years later. Most of those ten years were spent in the heart of the city. But for the two years that I worked at Bryn Mawr College, I lived in the suburbs. During that time, I discovered this little pond on the campus of nearby Cabrini College. There usually were families of ducks living in the pond, and I saw many ducklings take their first swims in it.
I went to the duck pond seeking solace and comfort. I was in talk therapy at the time, dealing with the effects of abuse that had happened in my childhood. Although it occurred when I was 7 or 8, I was still living with the effects 20 years later.
I had one overriding question: WHY? Why had all that happened? Why was I thinking about it after all those years? Why did it seem to affect me so much? If there were a God, why would he allow something so bad to happen to someone so young? Why? Why? Why?
The hours I spent at the lake didn’t provide the answers to all my questions. But they gave me a way to connect with God. I would sit there and pray and cry as the hours passed by. Then I would look at the ducklings frantically trying to swim, or I would lean against a big oak tree and consider how it grew from a small acorn. Being in nature enabled me to lift my gaze higher than the issues I was facing and behold the Lord of the universe.
Svadhaya is the Sanskrit term that means study of the Divine. It can take place in three forms—reading scriptures like the Bible and Yoga Sutras, spending time in nature reflecting on the Great Creator or doing some self-reflection. The same divinity that creates spectacular sunsets and keeps the planets in orbit also dwells within each and every single human being. The more we spend time in self-study, the easier it is to recognize our divinity—and the Divinity of others.
Svadhaya is one of the five niyamas—or ways through which we can encounter the Divine and evolve toward grater harmony in our lives. Unlike their sisters the Yamas, which focus on how we interact with others, the niyamas are all individual practices. They are:
Saucha = purity, simplicity, and refinement
Few people aspire to wholehearted devotion to God; we just want to make it through the day and be ale to take periodic vacations. But when we practice the other niyamas, we come in contact with the Divine. That’s what happened when I was hanging out at the duck pond in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I was learning about God by observing his handiwork. I think back on that time with fond memories, and it gives me faith to persevere through challenges today.
Source: Nischala Joy Devi, The Secret Power of Yoga (2007).
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.