This concept, Saucha (purity), is the one that brought my whole project to a screeching halt six months ago, especially the last task for week 4. After those six months of busyness and big changes, life calmed down enough for me pick this project back up. And I really missed it during my hiatus, which affirms that all the time and effort put into it is valuable, even though the practical extent of that value is not yet clear. Since my first attempt at living by Saucha was an utter failure, I started all over from the beginning this month and the following is a combination of the two months (July '19 and January '20) of study.
The idea of saucha seems pretty straightforward: cleanse, purify; clean our bodies, thoughts, words, environments, etc. For the most part, it was an easy concept to adopt and practice. As Adele points out, when we purify these aspects of ourselves, we lighten our own burdens, bringing about a "brightness and clarity to our essence". And as we go through this intentional cleansing process, we also gain the ability to show up to each moment in life "with integrity and freshness...We become more pure in our relationship with each moment". Simply, we can more easily arrive to and stay in the present moment, without being drawn into the past or future, or into time sucks, bad habits, or whatever keeps us from our best selves. It also allows us to show up in our relationships with others in a purer, more authentic way.
The real OG yogis of thousands of years ago put a huge value on cleanliness and the rituals to achieve it. These included things as mundane as chanting mantras, breathing techniques, even actions that may mirror modern practices like tongue scraping and neti pot usage. And of course, we are supposed to thoroughly bathe before practicing yoga asanas, which as a practitioner I prefer, and as a teacher I appreciate. ;)
Luckily I wasn't tasked with any extreme purifying rituals this month, but maybe it would have been easier for me to perform Vastra Dhauti (swallowing most of 25 feet [or 32 yards, depending on the source] of fabric, doing some stomach motions to stir it around, and then pulling it back out, taking with it all the impurities of the digestive system) than week four's challenge.
Week 1: Purify the body. I'm asked to notice where my body is sluggish and to purify myself through diet, exercise, and environment.
Easy. When am I ever not trying to "purify" (improve, perfect, punish) myself through diet, exercise and environment? Basically I just had to keep doing what I normally do but try to notice how I feel and the difference between the "external process of cleansing and the internal process of purifying", which I already thrive on: I work out more than anyone I know, have been watching what I eat since 4th grade, and my favorite activity is finding shit in my house to get rid of. I also clean my apartment like an angry housewife on ephedrine because my sheddy dog, toddler, and husband sure don't clean up after themselves.
But to observe this concept outside of my everyday existence, I emphasized a few things:
I started a yoga streak (practicing every day) in July, so I continued that for up to 33 days straight and it was exactly the kick of energy and renewed creativity I needed for both my teaching and personal practice, which has taken a massive hit since the arrival of my child. And of course it felt great to move my body in this way every day.
Unfortunately, much of the progress I made on reducing my caffeine and booze over the past few months got destroyed by two vacations within two weeks of each other. My running/fitness also took a huge hit from Dec-Jan, which is normal for me but still disappointing. I'm okay with all of it though; I had great fun and relaxation on those trips and my spirit was totally nourished.
Week 2: Purify thoughts and words It is suggested that I use ritual, journaling etc. to release negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. I'm also well practiced in this area.
Negative Thoughts: Several years ago when I wanted to curb my internal loop of complaining and general bitchiness, I started a practice of wearing an elastic band on my wrist. Whenever I had a negative thought about something or someone, I'd pluck the band away from the sensitive skin on the inside of my wrist and let it snap back, hard enough to smart. Then I would force myself to counter the negative thought with something positive about the particular thing that initially inspired negativity. I returned to this practice for this month. It's very effective and does immediately make me feel lighter in spirit.
Curses: I am also working really hard on curbing my swearing, especially since one of the words in my 2.5 year old's limited vocabulary is "fuck" and he uses it in perfect context. Yes, I am embarrassed and ashamed of this fact. He also started saying "Jesus Christ" when I change his poopy diaper. So I've got to get that shit under control. I tried to stop swearing when he was born, but it took him so long to talk and copy my speech that I kind of forgot he was listening the whole time and would eventually speak my words back to me. Maybe I should add another elastic band to my wrist for swears.
Complaining: I'm always trying to keep my complaining and nagging to a minimum, too. My husband accused me of both about 6 or 7 years ago, and though I vehemently disagreed with his assessment at the time--and still do--I made I concerted effort to not let anything that could be construed as complaining or nagging pass from my mind to my mouth. Not so much to please my husband, but rather to make a point that I'm not a big complainer. He never noticed. .
Gossip: This week (the second time around) I was on a trip with my best girlfriends, and we sometimes fall into the habit of gossiping when we're together, which is something that I'm very conscious of trying not to indulge in too much. I thought it would be a challenge to avoid it with them, but it wasn't at all. Maybe our lives are so much richer these days that we don't have to rely on shady gossip to keep us entertained anymore.
Week 3: Leave myself alone (to be purely with myself)
This might be my favorite weekly challenge of this whole project so far.
I pretty much always just want to be left alone by other people--their nagging, needing, whining, questioning, etc. But I do all of this to myself, too, internally. I criticize and beat myself up constantly, and it sounds like a nice relief to leave myself the F alone for a week.
One such opportunity arose on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. It was cool and gorgeous and I had no obligations. I knew I should go for a run, but I just didn't feel well--low energy, cramps. I knew I should have taken advantage of free time on the weekend to be productive: catching up on this blog, or housework, or planning next week, or emailing clients.
But instead, I rested.
I gave myself a break, refused to engage in self-loathing or guilt, and laid down on my bed, indoors, and read a useless book sample that I'm not even going to buy. Total waste of a Saturday afternoon and I don't give a shit.
Week 4: Spend an hour peeling an orange (to be purely in the moment and task)
But THIS, this task has brought me to my knees. It's ultimately what derailed my month of living Saucha back in the summer (when oranges were in season and it was comfortable to sit outside in the sun for an hour while peeling one) and I still haven't gotten to it this time around, either. It's sad, really, that I can't just do one thing for one hour of one day of the entire month. It's a totally worthwhile activity. A great way to spend an hour. But I just can't do it. And that's a problem.
I bought an orange.
I wanted to do it.
The orange rotted.
I'll try again and write about it someday.
UPDATE: I bought 3 new oranges last week. They are still sitting on my counter.
UPDATE 2 : Those oranges rotted, too, and now I'm just wasting money and food.