For many years I worked on the family tree, using my research skills (gained from doing a PhD in psychology) to discover to stories of our ancestors. In doing so we also found relatives previously unknown. All of this as tremendously enlightening in unexpected ways.
As a yoga student I follow the Yamas and Niyamas, things to avoid and things to cultivate in our relationship with self and others. Svadhaya, one of the niyamas, means ‘self-study’ where by observing oneself we gradually become conscious of our thoughts, actions, feelings, beliefs and habits. Svadhyaya functions as a mirror reminding us of our higher potential, our true Self. Judith Hanson-Lasater writes svadhyaya means “actively meditating on or studying the nature of the Self”. Through consciousness we are then able to let go of those things that lead us away from wholeness, and adopt those thoughts, attitudes and behaviours that bring us closer to freedom. Becoming a witness to oneself is the key to progress.
However understanding things that have come down to us through the family line, through genetics, through energy patterns, or simply learnt from parents, can also help to set us free. In researching my ancestors I observed repeated patterns of events, certain illnesses, that I recognised as part of me. Becoming conscious of this helped me to end those patterns in my life.
We met Frank, a second cousin of my husband Stuart, for the first time a few years ago. Until I began my research we did not know he existed. We met at his place, and from the first moment it was obvious how much he and Stuart resembled each other. Then he began to talk, and we both heard Stuart’s father’s voice, his sense of humour, his mannerisms. We realised these traits came down the family line.
Next Frank invited my husband to go out to the shed with him, where much to his delight and amazement he discovered a superbly equipped machine workshop, where Frank worked on a few special old cars and made model racing yachts. When Stuart was young he wanted to be a naval architect, and since he was 12 he has had a 100 year old model racing yacht that he occasionally sailed. Since then Frank has completely restored Stuart’s yacht, and built him another.
This is just one example of becoming conscious about oneself through observing family and reflecting on shared heritage. How much more clearly we can see ourself when we see ourself in others!