Today it finally feels like summer may arrive. Brilliant sunshine pouring in through bedroom windows this morning woke me up. Nice way to awaken!
Lately it feels like we’ve been living in an eastern location of Seattle – too many cloudy days. The arrival of sunshine energized me to get outside, head to the Farmers’ Market – which I did yesterday – and prepare our living space for summer. I think it’s important to mark the seasons in what we eat, and how we live. It anchors us to the earth, its cycle of seasons, and to the place where we live.
Farmers’ Market vegies have encouraged me to grill a number of meals so far. Grilled potatoes, corn, onions, parsnips (wintered-over), tomatoes, sweet potatoes, fresh pineapple and asparagus are just a few of the vegies that have made it to our grill so far. Finish with a light gyoza sauce and they’re ready to serve up.
I’ve not posted too much lately because I was asked to teach a J-Term class at the university where I work (think one month, January, fifteen weeks crammed into 18 days!). The course was on theology and consumerism. “What’s the connection?” you might ask. Well . . . everything. How we see God – loving, compassionate and present within each person, for example – influences how we make decisions regarding everything we buy or whether we buy anything at all.
For Christians (and others too) we believe there is an inherent responsibility to consume less in order to relieve the stresses caused by carbon and waste to our planet. There is concern for the 23 million human beings enslaved worldwide to produce cheap goods for industrialized countries. I live in an urban area (Twin Cities) that is sadly one of the centers of human trafficking in this country. Finally, there is a concern about the inhumane treatment given to many of the animals we consume.
In many ways this seems too overwhelming to consider. And yet we have a moral responsibility to do exactly that. However, education and changes can be made slowly over time. It’s a process that is on-going. Choosing to live more simply is a great way to start. It is a way to use less, take care with what is actually used and frees time to learn more about what and how we consume.
So this was the topic of the course. The students were engaged, thoughtful and brought excellent suggestions and ideas to their discussions. I am always amazed at how much young adults are already doing to learn more, help others and the earth. They are inspiring for sure! They inspired me most definitely!
How many planets would it take to support your lifestyle? Here is one of the links a student highlighted that calculates what our lifestyle choices mean for our planet. Get started. Click on the map and find out if you should consider living more simply.
The new year is always a good time to clean, edit, organize. To that end I give you my “Spring Cleaning” post.
Last week I purchased some wonderful triple-milled French soap that was on sale. It makes the bathroom and shower smell great and it lasts twice as long as regular soap. On sale it is a good value and an affordable luxury.
This is the time of year when we may do some deep cleaning – both outside and within. The practice of saucha comes to mind. Traditionally, saucha is one of the niyamas or observances of the 8 Limbed Path of Yoga also known as Ashtanga Yoga. Saucha refers to the practice of cleanliness. Cleanliness of our bodies, our environment and our thoughts or mind.
The idea of the observance of saucha or cleanliness is not unique to Yoga. Ritual bathing and cleaning practices are prevalent in the Judaic (ritual bath, Kosher practice), Christian (baptism, foot washing) and Islamic (ritual washing and Hillel) religions. It is also readily found in many cultures including both Hindu and Japanese cultures or consider the Chinese practice of feng shui.
The practice of saucha keeps us healthy. Keeping our bodies and living spaces clean promotes health and releases life energy (prana) for healing, meditation and other activities. It is difficult to think clearly or accomplish something in a space that is cluttered, dirty or noisy.
Similarly, a lack of order that causes us to search for car keys every day steals time and energy. In our minds unwanted, intrusive thoughts or obsessions steal our time and mental energy. Practices of racism and discrimination distort our minds and defile our thinking. In our relationships, failure to maintain clear boundaries cause us to feel used, unappreciated or worse – violated. (To learn more, I strongly recommend reading Anne Katherine’s Where to Draw the Line and Boundaries.)
Saucha is the remedy for all these.
Saucha reminds me that the practice of cleanliness is a practice of maintaining physical health but also a spiritual practice. This is true whether it is making a bed, washing dishes or meditating to clear my mind. If I want to be a virtuous person I must become those virtues. This means that if I want to be kind I must practice kindness. If I want to be generous or honest I must practice both. This includes being with people who can embody what those virtues look like for me.
January and February are good months to clean house and maybe our lives. It’s constant work to remove relationships, food or activities that fail to leave my body, mind or life in better condition (eliminating junk food or TV – which is junk food for the mind – for example).
Keeping my surroundings ordered and clean promotes free-flowing energy. My home is not just for me. Everything I have is a gift. My resources must be well cared for and available for others too. This means extending myself with the practice of hospitality.
It is an ongoing challenge to seek out those with virtues I admire and spend time with them. Working with others to dismantle the legal and social structures of white privilege and racism is included here. Attitudes are slow to change which is why unjust laws must be corrected first.
This is what the practice of saucha looks like in my life. Why practice suacha? Remember the airline’s directive: “Place the oxygen mask over your mouth first before helping others.” I can’t be a healing presence for others in the world unless I am healthy myself.
Do you make time for spring cleaning or saucha in your life? What are your spring cleaning and saucha practices?
Each year I select a word for the year – or perhaps it is actually more correct to say that a word selects me. Last year my word was “authentic” – one who authors or one who acts independently. And it was true – I did give voice to my own unique perspective in my dissertation work during this past year.
This year the word “joy” continually popped into my head. So “‘joy” will be my word for this year.
So what is “joy”? In my mind it is more than happiness – which relies too much on external events or relationships. To me “joy” is more of an interior state of being; the deep stillness below the waves, if you will. With joy, one has the ability to remain present, endure whatever comes, yet still feel delight and hope in reality.
Joy, as an interior state, allows one to view the world through different eyes or with a different mind. This means seeing beauty more readily, remembering wisdom, hearing love behind the words.
It also means seeing reality more clearly and envisioning what needs to change to make the world more beautiful, therefore more just.
Joy is a fitting word for Christmas – the incarnation or indwelling of God in the world – and for me for the coming year. Now I will have to wait and see what the year brings!