We have all taken personality tests before. At work, your company have made you take the Myers-Briggs personality test in order to teach you how to effectively communicate and work with other people. Or you might have taken a less serious personality test like the “Which Disney Princess are you?”
At best, you received some insight into your temperament. You may have found out you’re an introvert, which explains why you feel the need to stay in at home 3 nights per week for every 1 night you go out with your friends. Or you may find that you’re not a “planner” and prefer to be spontaneous, which makes you fun and yet, constantly late to meetings.
But Hinduism teaches that the true Self (self with the a big S) goes far deeper than mere temperaments. The Self is your soul. Everyone has a Self, and each Self is connected to the universal soul or reality, called Brahman.
It’s not something you can understand intellectually, you can only feel it.
If you’re interested in catching a glimpse of what the true Self feels like, follow the steps below.
Sign up for Yoga Class
Preferably, you sign up for a Bikram Yoga class, as catching a glimpse of the Self will be greatly facilitated by a 104 -degree humid room.
As you are struggling through the different asanas, or poses, pay attention to the difference between your physical pain, and your mental interpretation of the pain. To the untrained mind, there is little gap between the two. As you continue practicing yoga and begin paying attention to the physical sensation, you will begin to understand that pain is only physical, and that you can simply observe it and accept it.
As you continue your practice, reflect on how many of your reactions or emotions or attitudes to your daily life are reflexive.
Do you define yourself by these reactions?
If so, what would happen if you were able to stop these reactions. What would be left?
When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a lamp in a windless place. In the still mind, in the depths of meditation, the Self reveals itself. Beholding the Self by means of the Self, an aspirant knows the joy and peace of complete fulfillment. Having attained that abiding joy beyond the senses, revealed in the stilled mind, he never swerves from the eternal truth. He desires nothing else, and cannot be shaken by the heaviest burden of sorrow. – The Gita
Do you work selflessly
If you’re like me, you live in a constant state of frustration in your workplace. When your good ideas don’t get implemented, you become irritated. When you see nonsense processes be implemented, you want to hang yourself (TPS reports, anyone?)
You begin to define yourself by your antipathy to your work. Yes, I’m a (consultant/project manager/marketing coordinator) but I don’t like and I’m looking for other opportunities.
Instead of looking for a new job, however, practice Karma Yoga, or the Yoga of Action. Instead of conducting your work with disdain, conduct your work dispassionately. Notice that your preferences and your aversions, while real, are in your mind. Tasks are neither good nor bad in nature.
As you become more advanced in your detached work, you will find that your work begins to bother you less.
And once your work bothers you less, what happens to your view of yourself? If you are no longer the person who hates your job, what’s left?
To get to the Self, you must remove the pre-occupations that define the self.
All actions are performed by the gunas of prakriti. Deluded by identification with the ego, a person thinks, “I am the doer.” But the illumined man or woman understands the domain of the gunas and is not attached. Such people know that the gunas interact with each other; they do not claim to be the doer. – The Gita
*Gunas are “qualities” that arise in the universe. Think of them as personality traits in this context.
Say a daily prayer
Ideally, you would set up a shrine with your favorite Hindu god (I use Ganesh) and you can conduct a simple Puja, or offering/prayer. Here are some instructions to conduct a simple Puja.
You don’t need to believe that god with an elephant head exists. The goal is to surrender the self (with a small s) to something greater.
As you make your symbolic offering, think about virtues you want to cultivate in yourself. Do you want to become more kind? More loving? Think of the virtues that move you, and wish for the strength to develop those virtues.
If focusing on virtues is too abstract, you may want to focus on a Hindu deity. The concrete imagery may help with the prayer.
Throughout your day, think about what it means to surrender the self for something greater. What does it mean to let go of your likes and dislikes, and to dedicate yourself in full to the good and noble?
To offer service to the gods, to the good, to the wise, and to your spiritual teacher; purity, honesty, continence, and nonviolence: these are the disciplines of the body. To offer soothing words, to speak truly, kindly, and helpfully, and to study the scriptures: these are the disciplines of speech. Calmness, gentleness, silence, self-restraint, and purity: these are the disciplines of the mind. – The Gita
By following these three steps, you will begin to understand that you are more than your physical sensations. You are more than your emotions. You are more than your thoughts.
You will understand that there is something good and divine within you that you can’t express in a test result, but that is real nonetheless. You will feel it, and you will want to hold onto that feeling and manifest the Self in a concrete way in the world.