Newsletter August 2013
The SWAN sadhana was created by Swami Niranjanananda and is a valuable tool to use for reflecting on one’s life. SWAN stands for Strength, Weakness, Ambition and Need. Once we are able to understand our personality on a deeper level we begin to see how our strengths, weaknesses, aims and needs determines many of our behaviours, habits, actions and interactions. This also leads us to greater self acceptance.
When using this tool you can think of the four aspects of SWAN in the following way:
Strengths are those positive attributes that we are born with, or that we acquire, that help us evolve e.g. faith, persistence, physical strength, a caring nature, knowledge, patience etc.
Weaknesses are the defects in our personality that hinder our progress e.g. laziness, jealousy, hatred, possessiveness, greediness, anger, procrastination etc.
Aims or Ambitions are the goals we have in life to feel fulfilled
Needs are food, a home, love, friends, health, devotion etc. Needs help you to create your ambitions.
Ways to use this practice: Firstly compile lists of your strengths, weaknesses, ambitions and needs. Use the four categories (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) to help you consider each area of yourself.
Remember to be completely honest with yourself, and not to judge or censor what you write down. When listing your ambitions, ask yourself: What do I want to achieve? What do I aspire towards? When writing down your needs remember that what you need is not necessarily what you want.
Consider how you can use your strengths to overcome your weaknesses. Match up a strength on your list which will help you overcome a weakness on your list. Also consider which strengths can be applied to help you achieve one of your aims, as well as which weaknesses prevent you from realizing this aim and the strengths you can use to support these weaknesses.
The SWAN can be used as an ongoing exercise where at the end of each day you review what you did during the day, and list your strengths, weaknesses, ambitions and needs just for that day. Practice in this way for two to three months and at the end of each month review all your personality characteristics and evaluate yourself. There might be ten or twenty strengths for one month, but some of them may only appear on your list once, while others may appear again and again. Find three or four common strengths and compile them into one list. Do this for the other three aspects as well. The process of SWAN, gives us the clarity within ourselves to express our best qualities, transform our weaknesses, direct our ambitions with awareness and honour our real needs.
After practicing SWAN for a while, you will come to know that what you need to bring to a certain situation or relationship is within you - you just have to tap into it and then life becomes very positive. SWAN can change according to your awareness or mood. Your moods and attitudes change according to your perception of life. This gives you some extent of control over the aspects of SWAN, and this is liberation.
Do something. Start now. Keep it small, keep it simple and keep it going for one month. And then at the end of the month keep it going for another month. Even if the mind jumps and gets excited about doing more, don’t worry about making it bigger or adding something – just keep it going. At the end of each month take a moment to reflect – what went well? What were the challenges? Did you notice any effects? You may find a lot of the benefits will be gained simply by doing the same little thing each day for a period of time, whether you notice any effect during the practice or not.
Be the experiment. And see what happens.
Looking for ideas? Try one of the following Practical Tools from our previous newsletters:
- Walking meditation
- Japa meditation
- Cultivating a positive mind
- Laughter Yoga
- Cultivating Internal Sustainability
- Morning mantra sadhana (recommended for all by Swami Niranjan)
Note that if you’re not sure which practice is right for you or if you experience any significant unexpected effects, it’s recommended to consult a qualified yoga teacher for guidance.