Conscious Commitment

“The person practicing svadhyaya reads his own book of life, at the same time that he writes and revises it.”
— BKS Iyengar, Yoga Practitioner & Philosopher

How many times have you been determined to make a change in your life? 

We learn about something new, we are fed up with something old, we expect more from ourselves or from another. How many times have you been filled with so much conviction that you are absolutely and completely convinced that you could never continue living in the same way?

And how many times have you watched that change fade from your sights and slip away from your grasp, further and further into the distance until it seems almost unreachable?

This is something we ALL have experienced at different times and to varying degrees in our lives… Perhaps this is comforting to you. Perhaps it’s motivating. Perhaps it’s both? This blog focuses on making a commitment to conscious change

Authenticity & Assessment + Conscious Commitment to Change = Self Development

In the first U&i blog we spoke about Authenticity and Assessment. When we commit to the process of change we must:

  • Honestly assess where we are in life currently
  • Identify our desires and the changes we will make
  • Then commit to making that change in an authentic and on-going manner

Yet, as our first two paragraphs and numerous interactions with friends, family members, acquaintances, and ourselves reveal, we have all experienced the frustration of not following through with changes we’ve set out to make. Since most of us are repeat offenders of this, after a while it becomes a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, doesn't it? We know what we want, but don’t believe in our ability to make it manifest in our lives, so we never really make an honest effort to make that change in the first place. Then, ultimately, we end up back where we started. Except this cycle, whether it be momentary or prolonged, reinforces something within us = Self Doubt. 

In my assessment of life, self doubt is the single most crippling form of internal dissonance there is. I know it well. I spent 12 years of my life abusing substances. In a single word, I was an addict. I can remember having a conversation with a teacher in high school and sharing my frustrations about my inability to get a grip on my substance use. He said to me, “Ian, there will come a day when you wake up and you'll say enough is enough and you will simply stop.” Mind you, at this point I’d been self-medicating for 3 years and was already well aware of my desire to stop. I simply couldn’t. 

Each day for the next NINE YEARS I went to bed thinking this is it, tomorrow I’m done. Hoping that I’d wake up with the discipline to never use again. That day never came…

"The person practicing svadhyaya reads his own book of life, at the same time that he writes and revises it."  - BKS Iyengar

"The person practicing svadhyaya reads his own book of life, at the same time that he writes and revises it."  - BKS Iyengar

After a few traumatic and transformational experiences in life, I was given yet another chance. Life, The Universe, God, Creator, Source (insert whichever noun you prefer) granted me the opportunity to sit on my ass for a full week and simply reflect. Due to a ridiculous physical injury I sustained while standing in my kitchen, I was rendered relatively immobile. I didn’t have cable at the time nor was I watching much TV in general. I couldn’t move or go anywhere without severe pain and a limp. I could only sit. I had no where to escape internally or externally. For those of you that are avid readers you may be thinking, what about books? The many brand new books on my shelf are testament to the fact that I’ve never been a huge reader. Plus, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being called to go deeper.

During that week, I had several come to Jesus moments. I woke up on December 31st, looked up at the sky and said out loud, “I get it.” As cliche as it sounds, I made it my New Year’s resolution to get clean. It wasn’t as clean or as pretty as I’d hoped and it certainly wasn’t as easy as someone whose never battled addiction would think. It was nothing other than hard work, and conscious commitment

I truly didn’t intend or plan on that story coming out in this blog, but it feels like a healthy transition point. Truthfully, the content of this blog is rather simple.

  • Conscious: aware of and responding to one's surroundings; awake.
  • Commitment: the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.

When I say conscious commitment I mean it very literally. Some of us may have heard the phrase “expand your consciousness” especially if we run in any spiritual circles or communities. I want to make the distinction that this is NOT what I mean (that conversation is for a different rant entirely). I use the word conscious in a very literal way.

When we commit to change we are committing to:

  • Behavior modification
  • Continued conscious reflection
  • Embracing a working relationship with our own self-doubt

If we are to be successful in that change, we must be aware of AND respond to our surroundings. In many instances, when we want to change something within ourselves, what's required is for that awareness of our surroundings to be turned inward. An awareness of our own Internal Landscape. A certain times it requires deep reflection and contemplation. At other times it simply involves a noticing and a redirecting. Regardless, we must be conscious about our commitment to change. 

There are a number of ways we can practice self-reflection but ultimately, we need to be aware of our thoughts/behaviors/actions in the moment in order to make change. We must also recognize that there are no magic bullets or quick fixes. That scene in the Matrix when Morpheus offers Neo the red pill or the blue pill - though the metaphor is VERY real - it isn’t a simple flip of the switch. If we take the red pill, we are committing to the process of swallowing that pill over and over and over again. It will remain increasingly simple to return to a life shrouded by our rose colored lenses. 

Reflection Questions:

  • What am I committing to?
  • What are some concrete ways to make this a conscious process of commitment? 
  • How will I implement these strategies in my daily life? 
  • How will I hold myself accountable to my commitments? 

As BKS Iyengar states in the opening quote, “The person practicing svadhyaya reads his own book of life, at the same time that he writes and revises it.” Svadhyaya is a Buddhist concept that can be translated as, self (or scriptural) study. This blog encourages us all to practice svadhyaya this week and beyond. Continuously study your self, your habits, your thoughts, your actions. Chances are good you are already aware of some changes you want to make. Increasing our self-awareness allows us to learn about ourselves. Implore the scientific method (systematic observation, measurement, experimentation, repeat) on your Self and commit consciously to change. 

"Read your own book, while also writing and revising it…" 

  • Read = Observe
  • Write = Change
  • Revise = Assess & Reflect
Remember there is always only one time for self-development… right now.