Author of Breathing Love and True Yoga
There is no denying that we live in a time and a culture that is focused on self. “Selfies” have become a global phenomenon, and social media fosters a fixation on me, me and more me. Posturing to appear greater than life goes on incessantly and often drives people to a level of self-absorption that generates a contrary outcome to its intent, because although focused on self, we end up further away from an authentic understanding of who we truly are. It is time to look in the mirror—in a totally different way.
Stop hiding behind the mask of false self
Self-reflection or introspection as a spiritual practice has been around for thousands of years. It encompasses a study of one’s self from the personality level to the soul level, as well as a study of our shared field of consciousness, or Ultimate Self, that is embodied in each one of us in a unique way. In the Yoga Sutras, this is referred to as Swadhyaya, and it is one of the five niyamas or observances that take us into inner harmony.
Rather than giving time and energy to appearing as someone valuable, loveable and necessary, by practicing authentic selfreflection, we actually see that we already are valuable, loveable and necessary, with or without external validation. Wouldn’t it feel nice, instead of sending images of self out into the world with the hope of gaining likes and followers, to open up to the inner experience of yourself and develop a life according to your highest truth?
To begin this journey, try journaling on these prompts in the categories of mind, body and spirit.
Do I perform my duties with enthusiasm, goodwill and efficiency?
Am I kind and thoughtful toward colleagues, family, friends and strangers alike?
Am I truthful and positive, avoiding criticism and gossip?
Do I strive to hold a positive, loving attitude in all circumstances?
Do I cater to my moods or practice even-mindedness?
Do I get enough exercise and sunlight daily for optimal health?
Do I eat nourishing foods and drink enough water for my body’s vital functioning?
Do I create balance in my day for work, rest, play, etc?
Do I use free time constructively, creatively, and in service to my family, friends and community?
Am I consistent with my chosen spiritual practice (church, meditation, prayer, etc.)?
Do I practice silence regularly to allow my senses to rest from external stimuli?
Do I embody soul qualities, such as generosity, patience, enthusiasm, empathy, devotion, self-control, integrity, loyalty and peace?
Do I give attention to that which I believe to be a Higher Power than myself?
Create an ongoing practice
By considering the predominant nature of your thoughts, actions and intentions, you start to see a clear reflection of your inner self. Are you living according to the highest principles you know? What is your life producing? Are you repressing any part of yourself? Do you like what you are becoming? Analyze these questions neutrally, without judgment. They are not meant to create an inferiority, nor a superiority, complex. And do not expect perfection. Just offer a continuous effort and results of greater clarity and peace will naturally follow. Next, contemplate your greatest aspirations and dreams. Stop blaming anyone else for your circumstances. Accept what is, and be accountable for any change that needs to occur. You get clearer and stronger as a result of life’s tests. So be grateful for them instead of resentful. Self-confidence is nourished when you tackle a difficulty and see that in fact you are capable of deep personal growth. Don’t expect to be challenge free! Trials are a part of life, showing us what lies within us that needs to be brought to a higher level of consciousness. “Truly scrutinize your life. Find out what it really amounts to; then take steps to make it all it ought to be. Change your consciousness; that is what is really necessary,” writes Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi.
Never give up
A wonderful time to practice daily self-reflection is in the evening before sleeping. Try this tonight. Take a few deep breaths to quiet the mind and relax the body. Then review the day mentally, simply noticing the ways in which you acted in accordance with your highest values and the ways in which you still need to improve. Relax into a gentle, compassionate conviction to do better tomorrow. Self-reflection helps us become better humans. Rather than seeking to get “liked,” we actually become genuinely happy. We also become a positive influence to others. By drawing closer to the expression of our true nature, lasting joy follows.
One step at a time
Consider any negative habits or character flaws you would like to overcome, such as being weak-willed, self-absorbed or pessimistic. Then make a list of the qualities needed to counteract these shortcomings. For instance, if you notice that you are driven by unhealthy habits and have difficulty employing willpower, you will need to cultivate self-control. Choose just one quality to practice for a month and integrate it into every aspect of your life—in your diet, relationships, speech, exercise and thought. Search for quotations that support this quality and keep them handy to inspire you. Write your own affirmations about being in the desired state of self-control now. Become a careful witness of your repetitive patterns of thought and behavior. Keep a log of the times you succeed in being self-controlled to foster a positive example of success. And practice compassion and patience in the times you fall short of your goal.
Jennie Lee is the author of BREATHING LOVE: Meditation in Action and the award-winning TRUE YOGA: Practicing with the Yoga Sutras for Happiness & Spiritual Fulfillment. A certified Yoga Therapist and spiritual life coach for over 20 years, and Jennie leads retreats internationally.