Friday, January 9, 2009
Saucha: Purity is peace.
We live in a time where cleaning means killing: killing germs, ethnic cleansing, and banishing negativity. To be clean, pure or safe seems to mean living in a pristine environment that doesn’t include perturbing things. It is thought that the perturbing things must be eradicated or removed to be in peace. I will be suggesting a different approach to this concept.
When I fly I feel a blissful sense of removal from earthly concerns. I am in the air, far above the troubles that the earth represents. I move through a magical space, free to peruse the mental landscapes that have now lost their substance, like holograms that communicate, without beating me up. It feels clean, up high in the air. I can’t be touched up there.
It’s hard to be touched, changed by life events. Emotionally, we tend to cling to comfortable moments that exist mentally, but aren’t in the tangible world. This resistance to new experience acts like a thick wall that insulates the fearful self from change. The concept of cleanliness can similarly help us hide from life by preserving a certain amount of space as “clean,” that is surrounded by everything fearful.
But there is another way to look at the idea of cleanliness and purity. Rather than the absence of impurity, which implies that we are somehow “dirty” and must be “cleansed”, let’s consider cleanliness as space. And there is usually more space than there are objects in any given living space. The space that the air occupies is larger than the room that the objects take up. Objects tend to overwhelm attention. They seem important. Let me suggest that the space around objects is also important.
We could look at operations of mind similarly. The stories, objects and concepts of memory take up less room than the infinite space of consciousness and creativity. So this space is there around positive and negative thoughts. And there is enough room for everything in experience. With this model of processing experience there is no need to exterminate certain thoughts, because there is enough room for everything. Just because we have a negative experience, it doesn’t mean that it will crowd out positive ones. The fact is that we have positive, negative and neutral experiences, and there is room for all of them, and more.
It is in the spirit of this concept of mental space that allows all life experiences, that I’d like to look at the first precept of Niyama: Saucha. Saucha means cleanliness or purity, and for the mental aspect: space. This can become a powerful tool, because when we invite discomfort into this pure and endless mental space the discomfort looses it’s power to control behavior. Just like the fire in the fireplace warms a room, but doesn’t take it over through incineration, feelings can exist in a similar way—the feeling is present, yet not running the show. It is just warming the mental space, bringing flavor to a particular moment. But, if we enter into the discomfort, allowing it to overwhelm our faculties, then we are at the mercy of our own feelings. And our ability to choose is incinerated. So to me, the mental aspect of purity is about the ability to maintain perspective, rather than being overwhelmed by any singular event.
There is also a physical aspect of Saucha that has to do with personal hygiene. Keep the body clean, inside and out. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables can help with health and vitality. The natural fibers help clean the system internally, and fresh raw foods can help the body cleanse itself of toxins. Eat a fresh raw salad every day.
Saucha can also help with living spaces. Too much accumulated clutter gets in the way of pleasant living, and can keep us stuck in the past as we are surrounded by all of those old things. Remove things that no longer serve the space.
Clear the mind by releasing the grip of outdated concepts and by actively seeing the space that is the potential for change. Clear the body with exercise and cleansing foods. Clear living spaces by removing clutter. Saucha.
Lacinto Kale Leaf with stem removed
Slice of Avocado
A halved Date with pit taken out
Place the Avocado and halved Date across the Kale leaf. Roll it up. Eat!
Adapted recipe from The Sunfood Diet Success System, by David Wolfe