Monday, 24 January 2011

Tarot journey into yogic philosophy 9 - swadhyaya

Returning once more to this series of posts examining aspects of yogic philosophy through the lens of tarot, I turn now to the fourth niyama or "code for living soulfully" as Donna Farhi names them.

The Hermit fits well with both interpretations given to swadhyaya, that of studying traditional texts and that of looking inward to study oneself. The Hermit is sometimes seen as the Wise Old Man archetype, that part of ourself that holds traditional knowledge, but not in the institutional, controlling way of the Hierophant. The Hermit studies for himself, not for a piece of paper or for social acceptance. Similarly, the wise one in a cave distances himself from society to see himself more clearly.

Donna Farhi discusses swadhyaya in terms of any activity that encourages self-reflection, be that blogging, art, academic study, or meditation.  However, she warns to beware of harshly judging any flaws found during this process - wisdom accepts weaknesses and strengths both as part of a whole person.

It's an interesting coincidence that swadhyaya is the ninth of the ethical precepts, just as the Hermit is number nine of the Major Arcana.  However, I won't read too much into that.

This precept seems very relevant to me at the moment, given that I'm studying psychotherapy, which combines academic learning and self-reflective examination.  Nevertheless, I still decided to explore this more deeply through drawing a card from the Gaian Tarot to represent what I need to know about this aspect of my life right now.

The card I drew was the Six of Water.  Here we see five women in a circle in calm water, a seal joining in behind them.  There is a sense of being in touch with the flow of life, and with the emotions that underpin it.  This wisdom is shared by people and animals alike, each learning from the other and sharing joyously.

This says to me that I can learn a lot about myself through being with others.  This echoes interestingly with the concept of validation espoused in existential thought.  Traditional existentialists say that we can never fully experience ourselves, because our experiencing lags behind our being, and thus we need to be witnessed and validated by another.  However, I find more convincing the discussion by Peter Philippson, who highlights that it is only when dancing with another that the dance can lead us places that neither has been to before either alone or with any other individual.  So, it is with others who are also individuals that we can best explore what that means, and experiment to create something new - a bit of me and a bit of you, and wholly different.

While seeming quite different to the solitary Hermit, this is still a path of self-discovery so long as I maintain the desire to understand and reflect on where I am within this choreography that is life.  This fits well, too, with my current course as we not only have to work with clients, but also take part in an experiential group.  Here's to learning from others to better understand myself.

Images: IX - The Hermit from the Gilded Tarot and the Six of Water from the Gaian Tarot.

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