Scripture ~ “Examine my heart and my mind. For your love is ever before me and I walk continually in your truth.” Psalm 26:3
Spiritual Focus ~ Studying with our heart requires that we look deeply at the way we live our life and examine our fears and motivations in order to understand the obstacles to opening to God that we place in our own path.
–Heidi Green EFM (Education for Ministry), MPP, RYT 500 Hour, co- author of Yogadevotion, Practicing in the Presence.
Breath Prayer ~ Inhale – create in me, Exhale – a clean heart, O God.
Devotion ~ One intersection of yoga and faith is the practice of self-study. In Sanskrit, the language of yoga, it is called svadhyaya, literally meaning “one’s own reading” or “self-study.” It is the fourth niyama, or personal observance, of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and has the potential to deepen our yoga practice way beyond the mat. In Christian spiritual practices self-study is called examen, a Latin word meaning “to examine.” Both practices of self-study encourage reading wisdom literature and listening to wisdom teachers as a way to begin self-examination. Self-study is intended to enhance and direct our way of living and keep us on the path of right living.
The Jesuit St. Ignatius of Loyola is credited with creating a practice called the Daily Examen. This often involves contemplating one’s sins that leads to a petition for forgiveness and guidance. Traditional followers of Ignatius practiced the Daily Examen at noon and at night, although there are many variations of this practice today. Another form of self-study is Examen of Consciousness. David Brenner, in his book Sacred Companion, describes this form of examen as a dialogue with Jesus. In this self-study we ask ourselves, “Where have we seen Christ with us today?” and at the end of our day, offer gratitude for God’s presence. The Examen of Consciousness helps us to see where the Holy Breath was with us even though we may not have been aware of her presence at the time.
The story of Jesus living in the wilderness after his baptism (Matthew 4:1-2) is a story that suggests Jesus spent time in self-study, reflecting on and contemplating what this mission from God meant for his way of life. The prayer of David from Psalm 26:3 is a prayer that Jesus would have prayed during his time in the wilderness. It is a prayer that we can pray as we practice self-study in learning to live and love in the way of Jesus.