The jewel of Saucha, or purity, carries a two-fold meaning. First it invites us to purify our bodies, our thoughts, and our words.  And second it asks us to seek purity with each moment by allowing it to be as it is. The more we are able to purify ourselves, the more we are able to meet each moment fresh and new. 

Purifying ourselves can take on many forms. We might do increased physical exercise, or increased water intake, a day of juice fasting, or perhaps a day of cleaning out closets. Maybe we will choose to spend a day purifying our tongue so that we speak nothing of harm or untruth for the entire day. Whatever form purifying takes, it also begins with an intention to “lighten” the load we are carrying. Maybe your body carries poisonous toxins from a poor diet or your mind carries heavy baggage of victimhood or unforgiveness. Maybe your home and workspace are full of clutter and junk. And all of these loads weigh down your body, mind and spirit. The guideline of purity invites us to move into ease, to do what it takes to get rid of this heaviness, wherever we find it in our lives. The Yogis also advocate a vegetarian diet as it aligns with Saucha. It supports nonviolence and promotes sattvic qualities such as virtue, kindness, intelligence, and purity. 

We can also “come clean” by admitting something that we have been holding in or by expressing deep emotion in a nonviolent. This purges the heart-mind of pent up feelings. Mourning the death or suffering of a loved one cleanses our emotional body. Apologizing is extremely cathartic too as it weakens egotism. This niyamas also invites us to forgive ourselves and others. This is one of the most generous gifts we can give ourselves.  There is an Aramaic translation of the Lord’s Prayer that interprets the line “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others…” to “Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt”. I love this translation as I feel the power of freedom that these guideline share with us. 

Perhaps the most difficult place to practice purity is with ourselves and all our expectations and illusions. Deborah Adele said “Instead of striving to become someone lovable, what if we loved ourselves fiercely as we are?” Being pure with ourselves means we are not afraid of our thoughts or our feelings, and we do not have to hide from ourselves. When we become safe with ourselves we can then be a safe place for others. We become a person who can comfortable and compassionately sit with another without the need to fix them. 

Purity is not our attempt to make something different than it is; rather it is to be pure in our relationship with it, as it is in the moment. We are asked to be with life, with others, with things, with the day, with the weather, as they are in the moment, not as we wish they were or think they should be or expect them to be. To be pure with something, we need to let go of ideals, illusions, and expectations. When we find ourselves stuck in a traffic jam, disappointed with our meal, tripping over messes in the house, or dealing with a crabby family member, we are invited to simply be with these times in a pure way. 

We need to give ourselves time to “catch up” with ourselves. We often enter a new experience with the clutter of the past leftovers or even future preparations. We are missing out on the fullness of life lived in the richness of what is immediately before us. I know my “efficient self” sometimes juggles so much with my parenting and work/ home life that I try to utilize every moment to be productive. Even trying to do one more thing before I need to be somewhere and then I end up being late and frazzled. Hurrying, multi-tasking, and busyness, all symbols of success in our culture, are killers of purity. It is a practice to give yourself “time” between activities and take “pause” to watch a breath. Saucha invites us to breathe in the sweet closure of the moment so we can enter the new moment fresh and new. 

Purity asks that all of us be in one place at one time. That our heart and head are unified, our thoughts, actions, and speech are congruent, and we are in the present moment. As we cleanse the heaviness of waste and clutter, we begin to feel lighter, more spacious and expansive. Our bodies become more alive, our minds become more clear, our hearts more compassionate.

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