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?