One of the basic guiding principles of yoga is Saucha. A Sanskrit word, it can be roughly translated as cleanliness. But not just cleanliness of our environment or physical cleanliness, but also cleanliness or purity of the body and mind.
“What has that got to do with my life?” you may ask. Well, I can only speak for myself and you can tell me if any of this resonates with you.
First of all, I can not work in clutter. It is extremely important to me to have a clear physical space. I need a sense of order and cleanliness. Otherwise my mind will be drifting from one little mess to another. My attention will be split. Any project I might eke out will be half-hearted, unsettled, and unsatisfying. So first things first: Clean, Baby, Clean!!!! I am always amazed at how good it feels to finally be in a space that is dusted, the floor vacuumed, all bits and pieces put away in their proper place. Cleaning can be a quick, easy ritual with instant gratification.
But let’s just say for the sake of argument that you are one of those people who appreciates chaos and gets inspired by it. Okay, then for you, skip that part and let’s move on to the cleanliness of the mind/body.
First, the body: I’m not just talking about taking a shower and brushing your teeth (although I think it’s a good start.) I’m also talking about what you *feed* your mind/body!
What kinds of foods do you generally nourish yourself with? If you are a happy camper living on take-out pizza, soda, and Big Mac’s, all I can say is – Great! But have you ever experimented with substituting fresh fruits, veggies and whole grains for at least some of that? Notice what you’re eating, when you’re eating it, how it makes you feel, and notice how you feel afterwards. Does a pattern emerge with any given food group? If you want to change, try making one small change at a time (for example, substituting water for soda for one week.) Any difference?
And then of course, we all know that ancient maxim of computing: “GIGO” (“Garbage in/Garbage Out”). What do you listen to? What do you read? What do you watch on TV? How involved are you in social media and if so, what kind of people are you (virtually) interacting with?
The content of your metaphysical “diet” will inevitably affect the content of your mind. You can experiment with it. Consider keeping a journal for a week recording all of the printed matter, music, email, video games, movies, etc. that you take in. Make a note of conversations, too. Who did you talk with? What did you talk about? How did it feel? Do this without judgment, but in the spirit of curiosity.
As with food, begin with small changes. For example, swap out 5 minutes of classical music in the morning for 5 minutes of drive time AM radio. Just five minutes. For one week. (And if you don’t like classical, I’m sure you have some piece of music that brings you a sense of order and peace.)
In the same way, if you find yourself having conversations that leave you feeling depleted, frustrated, or resentful, can you slowly steer yourself away from those conversations, either by spending less time with that person or by making a conscious choice to change the subject?
Will Saucha make your life better? It helps me. But who knows! It might be worth exploring. At the very least, you might just find that you feel a little better in general.
© Robin Munson