Many of us have destructive or impure habits that don’t nourish us. Purity (aka Saucha) is about sifting through habits so everything we do is with purpose in a becoming healthier and happier you (Santosha).
Self-respect in maintaining physical and mental health is expected in our modern world; after all you don't want to be that foul person that makes an indelible impression. Based on this mindset and in a larger scope, decluttering your environment from possessions, wearing clean clothes, bathing daily, eating healthy food, refraining from self-criticism and generally getting rid of the disorder in our lives are all good mantras.These mantras carry over into our conscious world of thought, word and deed and can spill into our spiritual self. All of the previously mentioned sounds like acts worth achieving and many of us strive to achieve this. After all who wants to be that person that has a splendiferous odor?
The suggestion of purity (Saucha) as mentioned in the Yoga sutras chapter 2.40, 2.41 Yoga Sutras has a two sided of this coin which can lead to perfectionism.Some of you may recognize yourself in this post and may not be ready to come out of the closet just yet. You know, that meticulously organized closet, coordinated by color; organized by shirts, pants, jackets and by shoe type, all perfectly aligned. To be brief, I will not bring up any other storage closets in the house.
EXCELENCE NOT PERFECTION
Perfection is an abstraction, an impossibility in reality, and often it leads to procrastination. This may be common knowledge, but there is a difference between striving for excellence and demanding perfection. Yours truly confesses to being a recovering perfectionist. I've learned through self-study and insight towards the word Soucha: purity of body and mind (Yoga sutra 2.40, 2.41) that beating myself up over perfection or lack of won't help or change anything.
Perhaps excellence not perfection is the solution? These days I'm trying to be kinder, gentler, and less judgmental with myself and others—which is something that's easier said than done.
Before my focused yoga practice and ongoing studies my strides towards a perfectionistic life was an endless report card on accomplishments striving for sense of ego completion. This perfectionism lead to an obsession with cleanliness or purity which gave rise to unhealthy perfectionism, rigid self-control, and leaded to emotional surge of fear contaminated by the external world.
The practice of yoga and life for that matter isn't about finding the perfect pose, the perfect spouse, the curtains matching your couch or the vehicle that defines you. Yoga is an experience of heightened awareness that happens as you work toward excellence and not perfection.
So what does Purity have to do with perfection?
At a basic level Soucha has to do with cleanliness or purity of the body. The science of Yoga contains a whole system of Kriya's (purification techniques).
What makes perfectionism toxic? While in the grip and drive of desire and success subconsciously fear and avoiding failure become a driving emotion which creates attachment an outward negative orientation. This negative tailspin prompts us away from love and towards fear based emotions. In this emotional state love isn't a refuge; in fact, it feels like a conditional based on performance. Any act that moves us away from the divine moves us away from unity which is the ultimate goal of yoga.
Purity and a car Wash
Perhaps the best way to shed some light on what purity really means in the context of soucha, is to start from an every day example.
Imagine yourself taking your car through the car wash: we are obviously “cleaning” and in some cases even purifying this important tool that allows us to get to and from work, travel coast to coast and run errands every day. Upon closer inspection, The function of detergents, water, the water-jets, brushes and waxes simply to separate different substances according to a purpose which to protect your vehicle.
There is nothing inherently “BAD” in the grim and muck of the street that sticks to our vehicles; however that residue eventually comes in the way of our intention. Our intention is to clean the exterior of the car so that harm does not come to the paint and ultimately our cars bodies.
Lets hammer home an analogy. If we do nothing, we might eventually hamper the functioning of our rolling cathedrals, I'm thinking body rust! It becomes clear, then, that cleaning actually separates things from one another, and putting them in different places in order to accomplish this is an objective. Excellence but not perfection is key.
This notion of purity works well when we move from the physical to the energetic and emotional. When we have “purity of intention” we act and with purpose of thought word and deed for one reason without hidden agendas. When we practice yoga and meditation one of the most powerful tools for the purification and cleansing of the mind, is separating our stream of thought. We learn to compartmentalize one particular thought by disposing of all others, This practice of purification (Soucha) consists in separating different emotions, and thoughts, according to a purpose by being able to focus our mind at will.
Purity (Soucha)— The process of keeping different energies separated in order to attain evolution. Nothing is “dirty” or “clean” by itself – we decide what to label it based on our filters (kleashas 2.1-2.9: Minimizing Gross Colorings that Veil the Self ) more on that in future post. The practice yoga suggest that we know very well what is our objective in this particular moment of life. We can clean our physical, emotional or mental world in an effective way. Things, feelings and thoughts are pure or impure and only relative to our intention.
Our higher cognitive function is to pursue a spiritual evolution. To accomplish this we gotta keep our vehicle waxed and cleaned.
Saucha suggests that we are aligned with purpose of promoting connection, harmony and peace within ourselves, our inner circle and our tribe. Purity is the process of keeping different energies separated in order to attain evolution.
Once our intention is clear, then purity consists in the daily practice of consciously selecting those objects, feelings, thoughts and energies that can help us in our path, while gracefully disposing of the others.
This submission is part of an ongoing series.
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Like so many others in the West, Stephen began to practice yoga for its health and fitness benefits, and the deeper practice followed naturally. He doubts if it would have happened any other way; had someone tried to push “Eastern” thinking, he would have recoiled. It was a slow, internal process, a growing awareness, the cumulative effects of regular asana practice that awakened a renewed interest in spirituality.
—Stephen BIson ERYT500