What a challenge! Can we be “pure” in body, mind, spirit, thoughts, and words? What if you think you have accomplished one of them and then you have a little “slip?” Say, you eat only raw foods, but you go to a banquet and have something else? Or you promise yourself you will only have pure thoughts, then anger arises? What then? Is it time to go back to the last lesson — on forgiveness?
Purification is spoken about in many spiritual disciplines. In yoga, it is called, in Sanskrit, saucha, and refers to purification on many levels — in body, mind and heart, in thought and action. Saucha is the first of the niyamas or observances that make up a part of the Yoga Sutras, the comprehensive and reliable path as laid out by the yoga sage, Patanjali. This eight fold or eight limbed guide is thoughtful and as relevent today as it was at the time it was written. I like to think of sutras as guidelines. If we are too rigid, we (and the ego) might use them as a means to beat ourselves up , to judge ourselves and others. That would, from my viewpoint, defeat the whole idea that we are loved unconditionally, right now, just as we are.
SAUCHA — PURITY
When I was fairly new to yoga and its teachings, I took very seriously the idea of purification of the body. I was learning to be a teacher of hatha yoga and understood very well how two of the “limbs” of classic yoga were effective for the body — asana (the postures or poses of yoga), and pranayama (breath work). Simply expressed, the poses are effective in purifying the physical body as well as the energy system, the nadis and the chakras. The breathing practices help cleanse and purify by moving oxygen and prana through the body. Of course, the mind and spirit benefit as well.
In addition to these forms of purification, there were others that I embraced. They were things like weekly fasting on water and juices, cleansing through daily use (which I still do every morning) by using the neti pot and sending water through both nostrils and out, eye asanas to cleanse the eyes, and various and sundry other cleansings. I can still hear the gasps from my yoga students when I describe the “string” neti, pulling sterile string through the nose and out the mouth, and, even more loud gasps, fasting then inducing vomiting (we called it purging) to empty the stomach of mucus and old contents. Well, let’s just say, without going into some even more shocking methods, ,you could spend a lot of time on cleansing the body. I sure felt clean but I’m not sure I was doing the big time, real purifications I needed — like purifying the mind and thought and heart.
Of course, I tended to want pure and fresh foods, eaten with intention and reverence. My diet styles shifted and changed. I had jars of sprouts growing and ground my flax seeds and balanced non animal proteins and felt quite virtuous and a little smug too. Wasn’t I just being so pure? In point of fact, wasn’t I just deceiving myself? Every morning, before I began my formal meditation, my mind wandered through all the yamas and niyamas, giving myself a kind of check list of how I was faring on the spiritual path of yoga. Did I notice that, while I thought I scored high on some measures, I still lacked forgiveness. I was harsh in my judgment of others and myself. I only understood the baby steps of these concepts. I had a long way to go…
Only when the purification REALLY began to happen, in my mind and heart, in actions and thoughts, did I know for sure I was actually doing something transformational.
Here are a few ideas to consider. For some they are baby steps. For others, they may be old hat. It never hurts to be a beginner again.
- Look at your body. Is there something you can do today to help to purify and nurture your body? Maybe you will drink some glasses of pure clean water or have a cup of green tea. Perhaps you will do some yoga stretches or take a walk outside. How about not eating that hot dog loaded with additives? You may wish to speak to your body about how much you appreciate it. Whatever you choose, let it be filled with love and pleasure.
- Try changing your attitude towards something that is routine, like vacuuming the rug or taking out the trash. Think of it as purifying and cleansing. Imbue it with positive energy. Cleaning out a closet could be like this. Or taking away clothing you no longer wear and giving it to others who would appreciate those garments.
- Take a moment to see how you are thinking. Clean up the “closet” of your thoughts? Like getting rid of complaining and negativity, judging and arguing. You might even consider a little silence, giving your mind a chance to rest and be quiet. Or you could meditate for a bit of time or extend you meditation.
Ultimately, the following are the words I like best. I could not find the attribution, so I am not sure who made this point, but, nonetheless:
The only “dirt” is Avidya, ignorance of the True Self.
When you know who you are and that you are Divine Light and Love, your heart sings, and everything else is window dressing.
With love and namaste, Deanne
For more writings and on the Yoga Sutras, go to http://www.deannemincer.com