Why Reflective Practice?
Inner Companion was born based on my personal experience of using reflective techniques everyday of my life. I’d like to share why reflective practice means so much to me.
I invite you to my childhood, to share how my journey got shaped. Mornings in my household meant sloka chanting, sweet smells of agarbathi, the aroma of freshly cooked meals from the kitchen. This environment ensured I started my day with positivity.
As the day broke each of us went about our way to school and work. My evenings were spent in solitude since my school day ended far earlier than my parents’ workday. This quietude played a critical role in developing comfort to be alone with myself and my thoughts.
I would bring in dried clothes, fold them up, put the clean dishes away from the morning, and wait for time to pass, to meet my mother. My mother, once back from work, would patiently listen as I ranted about the day and probably complained about my peers and teachers. This was my way of stepping back and describing an experience I was part of [first step to engaging in reflective practice]. It helped me to get in touch with my emotions, thoughts, and sometimes even resulted in a learning or two.
I was also training to become a classical dancer. It only added to the continuous exposure to vibrations and meditative thoughts, even if I was unaware at the time. My mind was engaged in interpreting devotion, bhakti and translating it in the form of movements and performing it to a wide set of audience. I started choreographing for songs in praise of Shiva, Vishnu, Jesus and every other form/name we have given to a God.
Apart from dance and ritualistic traditions at home, I was also introduced to Ramakrishna Ashram by my aunt – who volunteered for them. I performed in an event that the Ashram hosted more out of force than willingness. As I write these events, I cannot but see how these dots connect. For the most part, I trusted the process and not question too much into rationalising things. Which meant I was not aware of how these events and experiences were shaping me [second step in reflection: making meaning of events, and understanding one’s own behaviours].
Fast forward to the year 2002-03: I started visiting Ramakrishna Ashram that was closer to my home, thanks to my college friends. Ever since, I attended the Sunday classes, which were branded as Personality Development classes, specifically targeted for young students like me. In one such class, I vividly remember a group of some 100 odd young people repeating the following quote after the Swamiji who was guiding the session for us.
Teach yourself, Teach everyone his real nature, call upon the sleeping soul and see how it awakes. Power will come, glory will come, goodness will come, purity will come, and everything that is excellent will come when this sleeping soul is roused to self-conscious activity.– Swami Vivekananda
Trust me, and play along: Say the quote out loud, for 3 times. Observe what it does to you, and how you feel.
It was this experience that brought so much confidence in myself, and fellow human beings. I realized that humans are born with divinity, and all the wisdom lies within ourselves. What we need are the tools that will help us uncover this Truth and some guidance. My outlook of the world changed drastically, I became an optimist and was convinced that it is important I invested my time to get in touch with myself and seek from within.
I read so many books that fall under the self-help category, I began to keep journals, find inspirational quotes, and read other people’s journeys towards success. I started to listen to the other deeply. I empathized with the others, and felt their pain as my own. It became easier for me to connect with the other, and feel a kind of oneness, as if we were all different threads of the same fabric. I did not have to know you to feel for you, I just became more perceptive to the joys, sorrows, hurt, aspirations, dreams, of the other. It helped me to keep my judgement lens aside and engage in authentic conversations. For some I was a naive girl. To me, I was a perceptive individual filled with a sense of peace and calm.
Do I still live in that state? No. Definitely not. I have grown up to raise a family of my own, with which I have developed attachment to a lot more things. I am a lot more skeptical. I am cynical. I am judgemental, it takes me a while to trust the other, I have built many walls around myself and I don’t reach out. However, I continue my reflective practice. The quote still is my north star and helps me feel grounded. I am still that empathic human.
More than anything, I check in with myself very often. I articulate how I feel, what I think, what brings me discomfort, why I am resentful, who is the trigger, etc. I am able to step back and inquire if it is my response that causes me hurt/pain or is it the situation. I have continued to love myself, and embrace myself for who I am. I feel connected to my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. That keeps me grounded.
I may not chant like before, my home is not always smelling of agarbathis. But I reflect through my writings, the art I make, the conversations I have with my closest of friends, the chores that bring me the quietude. I also am reminded of my fallacies and beauties by my daughter who is unforgiving and blatantly true. It gives me enough pointers to reflect upon and course correct towards my North Star.
Reflective practice is like building a muscle. The more we practice, the more stronger, toned, and well-functioning our system will be. We can pick it up any time and set our own pace to gain that strength. Sometimes laziness gets the better of ourselves, but we can have the will to channel our energies back. We need to keep at it on a daily basis. We need to find which style, or what kind of exercise will work for us.
Now that I have shared why reflective practice means so much for me, tune in to know how I practice it, and how we can break this practice down and leverage it to our needs.