I have chosen to join the last two niyamas in this post as there are fundamental interrelationships between them.
Svadhyaya is meditation or attention on the Self/self. Isvara Pranidhana is surrender or alignment with the highest aspect of Self within.
You will note that I included a small self and a big Self under svadhyaya. Examination and meditation must be done on all aspects of one's being, not just focusing on the highest aspect. In fact the meditation on highest Self cannot truly even begin unless we start to see the whole picture. Sometimes in the traditional way, we seek the cause, in an effort to undo the entire house of cards, assuming that somehow the small ego must die. Relying on others words we seek to undermine the entire foundation and bring the house down. Everything has a place in this universe. It is important to understand all elements of ourselves if we are to truly access higher Will. Proper and healthy relationship must be brought to our "lower" selves, all of our lower selves (see the post on Union and Psychological Alchemy) before we attempt to access our higher layers. Otherwise we attempt the "spiritual bypass" that leads us only into darkness. The meditation that is required here involves deep self reflection, careful analysis, intuition, the ability to feel, a full acceptance, and consistent application of effort. If we lack these tools then we act on autopilot, moving forward without true understanding as to the deeper movements of our personal and collective unconscious forces which guide us. This is a long process. There are no immediate shortcuts. This is gradual work. Otherwise we take the direct path and forsake the flowering of reality that is shining forth through us and as us. We are not only timeless presence, we are beings of space and time. We have jobs, families, purpose that is driving us forward. Do we understand all that is at play in what takes us forward?
There are many techniques, techniques that help us to sort, heal, purify, and align our different energies and wills and to list them all here is not the proper place. Perhaps more in a future blog. In the beginning it is enough to pay attention. To pay attention to our selves. To pay attention to all aspects of ourselves. Can we be open to the idea that our "external" reality is but a reflection of our self? Everything we need to study our selves is staring us right in the face daily, even moment to moment. Life is our study. Life is our self.
When we start to come to a deeper alignment internally with our different forces and energies, we realize also that there is something deeper inside of us. We are part of something much bigger. When we label this "something bigger" we have what is called Isvara. Isvara is not just some Hindu god but rather is the personal symbolic representation that our limited selves give to the highest aspect of our being. We may choose a God or some other form to represent this higher aspect or it could exist in our minds in some formless way. Isvara exists to our lower self in a form of relationship. We begin to relate to our higher Self and then as we recognize and know deep inside that this is truly us, we begin to align with that, we begin to surrender to that.
Surrender to the higher self is not just as easy as "ok, I'm going to now surrender and just give all this up". It involves the highest intensity of burning effort. The supreme alignment of personal will is required. If we choose not to do this work of surrender to our highest truth then we instead choose to swim in the murky waters of our own conditioning, the dreamlike nature of our lower movements. In the beginning, this work of surrender involves two, our lower and higher aspects. There is relationship. As we proceed, we realize that we are none other than our higher aspect and there is a deep union which takes place. A union that dissolves into the oneness of our Self.
I haven't given any techniques here. They exist but each must truly find them for themselves. In truly allowing the uniqueness of Self/self study and Self surrender to come forward we have to be very courageous and be willing to realize that our path is ultimately our own. To truly be willing to open up to the unique and powerful depths of our unique movements is the highest kind of courage one can have. And it allows for the beauty of this creation to unfold in the way that it was truly meant to do.