As important as Advaita Vedanta is, equally critical to its success is an effective habit of self-examination. In the quest to achieve an understanding of non-duality and an increased level of consciousness, we cannot separate ourselves from our daily lives. Nor should we want to. After all, this is where our emotions, words, and deeds find their ultimate expression, regardless of what’s in our hearts. A meditative pursuit of Advaita Vedanta that is based on regular and thoughtful self-examination provides the best foundation for on-going and increasing success in moving closer to an authentic perspective of non-duality in our consciousness and our actions.
Inquiry and Assessment
Self-examination provides us with unique insight into our own emotions and conduct. It may at first seem to be in conflict with non-duality; however, a closer look reveals how it is not. Non-duality is oneness that embraces our unity with the universe. And while self-examination appears very “me” focused at first glance, the actual methods of carrying out this exercise flip the script and press us to consider what is outside ourselves as paramount. After a period of self-examination, it’s more likely that you will come away with a stronger motivation to serve others than being served yourself and observe the presence of non-duality in your own life.
Advice for Making Your Self-Assessment Meaningful
In order for it to have the greatest impact, self-assessment should become a habitual practice. This takes time and a commitment to yourself; however, within a few weeks, it will become second nature, and something you may even look forward to. Many people who practice self-assessment perform these exercises daily. Others do it weekly. Consistency is more important than frequency, although too infrequently and you may lose clarity of thought and purpose from one session to the next.
- Approach your self-assessment with honesty and objectivity. This is not a time for dwelling on mistakes or self-flagellation. You are not looking for faults, you are seeking to reflect on experiences that caused you distress. If your mind is racing with stress and anxiety, it may not be a good time for you to undertake this experience, and saving it for another day or time may be more productive.
- Find a quiet place to think, one where you will not be interrupted or distracted. If sitting in the kitchen where there is a sink full of dishes will distract you, find another location. For some, the best time for self-examination is before bed. Others make it part of their morning routine before everyone else in the household rises. Either way, what’s most important is that it is consistent.
- Begin your practice by clearing your head. Your mind will want to wander, and that’s okay. Gently bring it back as often as you need to. Let go of distractions that may be tugging on your emotions, like bills that need to be paid or an argument you recently had with a family member. Closing your eyes and concentrating on your breathing may help you concentrate.
- Consider your actions, behavior, and thoughts as you’ve experienced them since your last assessment. Which of them stands out the strongest in your memory and in your heart? Reflect on those. Remember, this is not about beating yourself up over mistakes already made.
- Identify where you could have improved the situation by choosing the opposite action, behavior or thoughts. For example, if you were prideful, how can you act humbly next time?
- Visualize yourself making these improvements. Open your mind to the concept of non-duality for a greater understanding of how oneness is the true nature of reality, and that instead of opponents, we’re all essentially on the same team.
- And finally, close your exercise in self-assessment with a period of reflection. This may provide clarity into your self-identity and greater insight into how alleviating feelings of desire — for people, places, things, and experiences — can bring you liberation, as there is already a unity of all things in the universe.
Whether you make a practice of self-examination a daily or weekly habit, you will soon notice a greater ability to move through the world with calm and serenity. These insights can enhance your meditative experiences in pursuit of Advaita Vedanta. For self-guided and more formal instruction in self-examination and mediation as foundational concepts in Advaita Vedanta, turn to Shanti Sadan Centre of Nonduality for assistance. All are welcome to participate in our programs and events and avail themselves of our books, journals, and virtual programming.