In yoga philosophy there are the 8 limbs of yoga and within these are the “Yama & Niyama”. These are basically a little blueprint for living a more fulfilling life.
I have studied these often from many teachers. I love hearing different perspectives and translations. I do not believe that any one translation is more accurate than another but that all the translations exist because there are so many different types of people. Having so many different perspectives helps us find one that we best resonate with.
I generally find this guideline simple and easy to incorporate into my every day life but I kinda skipped over “purity”. To be honest it brought to mind images of saintly people in robes, living in sacred temples, eating only the vegetables they grew with their own hands. This was never going to be my path. Even just quitting cursing seemed a daunting task for me!
When I spent a year in Japan it was advised to me that I try all foods three times, even if I really did not like them. First to experience a new world of taste buds, second after a few months there to experience that food as my taste buds had adjusted from my home culture and then again one more time to give the food a chance. I often apply this concept in my life, especially if I have a strong aversion to an idea. I let it sit for a while then revisit it. Some concepts take several rounds of re-visiting and for me, Purity in yoga philosophy was one that needed many revisits.
The beautiful thing about Yoga Philosophy is that no matter what path you chose for your life you can find ways to incorporate these concepts into your life. Living in a temple in service to “the greater good” is an awe inspiring path for many. I benefit from the teachings of people that have chosen this path. I am eternally grateful to those who can walk this path and share the wisdom they find with us. This however is not the only way. There are many paths.
We can find ways to incorporate these concepts into our lives whether we are an accountant, firefighter, parent… no matter what our life path may be. In our modern lives rushing to and fro, what might purity look like?
“Saucha invites us to purify our bodies, our thoughts, and our words”
-The Yamas & Niyamas, Deborah Adele
Taking steps to purify and cleanse ourselves can be different for each person. It may be as simple as drinking more water, cleaning a closet, being mindful with our word choices. One of the definitions of saucha is “to walk with the divine”. Meaning mindfully keeping our thoughts, deeds and actions in line with “the divine”. For me this means honestly evaluating myself. Reminding myself with kindness when my words and deeds do not line up with my true self. How do I know when this happens? When I feel shame, when my mind starts throwing 1000 better responses I could have given, when I feel uneasy in my house because housework is falling behind….
“No is a complete sentence!”
-Nikki Myers (Entirely awesome example of an authentic person!)
I live with three teens and anyone who lives with teens knows that their sole mission in life seems to be trying to find peoples buttons to push. It can seem an impossible task to live with purity when some days it seems a challenge just to maintain your own sanity! In this regard purity also means not berating myself too harshly when I fall short. It means honestly evaluating myself, making amends where needed and taking steps to avoid repeating mistakes. This does not mean forcing myself into perfectionism! I tried that path and failed miserably and it was no more walking in purity than getting into a bar-fight is. (Trust me some days with teens, a bar-fight seems like a more appealing option!) Sometimes, to bring in more purity in my life requires I take more time to honor the purity of quiet time. Sometimes it means getting more sleep. Sometimes it means honoring the purity of my yoga practice and not letting my mind run around the “to do” list. It often means sitting with myself and going through the layers, checking in with why my ego seems to be on overdrive or why emotions seem to be doing their best imitation of a tropical storm. Sometimes, it means getting lost in the eyes of my dog and connecting with the purity of her unconditional love. Sometimes it means honoring the purity of the word no. Sometimes, it really does mean doing some physical or mental “cleaning” and sometimes it means cleaning a toilet because life is better with a clean toilet!
“Because we have not taken the time to “catch up” with ourselves, we are living on the leftovers of where we have been or the preparations of where we are going.”
-The Yamas & Niyamas, Deborah Adele
Purity can also simply being PURE in the moment, not being lost in the past or filled with worries of tomorrow, but here, in the right now.
We do not have to strive for perfectionism. We do not have to be saints to live in line with our life’s purpose or our truest self. We can find simple ways to incorporate these concepts gently into our lives. When we are kindly guiding ourselves to incorporate these concepts they are more sustainable. Take baby steps on your path. There is no exact recipe, no precise way and most journeys are not a straight line but a winding path filled with mistakes and learning opportunities.
In the midst of the busy holiday season, can you make a vow to honor the purity of a moment for 5 minutes a day? 2 minutes? What might that look like for you?
May we know love, light & connection.
PS I totally used the cuteness of my darling Jabba to get your attention! This is the look she gives me when I am paying attention to my phone and not her waiting for attention.