Śaucha is an aspect of the 8 Limbs of Yoga, and translates to cleanliness or purity.
Śaucha can be looked at from multiple angles. From the most obvious level we can apply it to physical space and the body. As Marie Kondo has taught, having a tidy space that sparks joy can shift our relationships with the spaces we inhabit. Similarly, I relish the feeling of a shower after backpacking for a few days. The feeling of a clean body after being covered in dirt, sunscreen and sweat is one of the most refreshing feelings. A tidy space and a clean body can do wonders for our physical and mental health.
Śaucha can go much deeper though as we look into other areas that can be cluttered. Time is a big one for me. I commonly feel I do not have enough time, but how am I spending the precious time I do have? How much time am I on social media? Watching the news? Engaging in conversations I don’t want or need to be a part of? When I think about cleaning up time I have to take an honest look at my priorities and how I am, or am not, aligning with them.
Relationships are another aspect of Śaucha. What are the necessary relationships in your life? What do you continue out of obligation or habit? How often do you say yes when you want to say no? This comes back to priorities. Who are the people who are priorities in my life? For me, these are the people the nearest and dearest to my heart. They are the people I can’t imagine my life without. When I prioritize these relationships I can give even more to them because my energy is not scattered or exhausted from being pulled in many directions.
Our mind is also a Śaucha practice. A meditation teacher once compared tooth brushing to meditation. We wake up and brush our teeth, and we also “brush” our mind with meditation. Taking time to clean our mind with meditation is a powerful practice, and like with our teeth we don’t do it just once. We have to keep brushing our teeth to keep them clean and healthy. The same goes with the mind. In general it is helpful to find a meditation practice and stick with it instead of doing a different meditation each day. Even meditation can become cluttered if we are trying to do too many techniques at once. Here is a free meditation course taught by my teacher, Dr. Kavitha Chinnaiyan, and some guided lovingkindness, centering in presence and yoga nidra practices.
Speech can be yet another Śaucha practice. I love the teaching: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? If I truly applied this to every word I said I would barely speak! It is helpful to ask myself why am I talking? Is it to make me feel good about myself? To appear smart? So I am not uncomfortable in silence? When I declutter my speech I can be a better listener. I think less about what I am going to say and focus more on what I am hearing. By listening more, I have found that when I do speak it is more beneficial to myself and the person I am speaking to because I am more present and mindful.
What I have personally found with the practice of Śaucha is when I declutter areas I have some control in other stuck areas can soften. When my space, relationships and time are decluttered I notice I don’t hold onto things as tightly. Some of the traumas that have been lodged in my body for years shifted. Relationships that were strained healed. When I am not holding onto so much stuff, people or obligations, I can more easily allow things to come and go.
I have historically resisted decluttering thinking of it as a waste of time. However, as I have put it into practice it has paradoxically given me more time, energy, space and ease in my life. It helps me access quiet in the mind, a sense of calm in my space, a deeper connection to my body and a sweeter connection to the people in my life.
Do you have a Śaucha practice? What does it look like for you?
Pick one aspect of the list above (space, body, time, relationships, mind or speech) and spend some time journaling.
1. What is your relationship with this?
2. When you contemplate a Śaucha practice what arises?
3. What are your priorities in regards to this?
4. What are you willing to do to move one small step closer towards those priorities?
Pick one thing (i.e. meditate each morning for 10 minutes, pause before speaking, making your bed, etc.) and commit to that until it becomes a habit. Then go back to either the same area or explore another aspect of decluttering.
If you want a more supportive approach the Śabda Institute is doing a Facebook Book Club on the Heart of Wellness, which is based in Ayurveda and addresses decluttering and so much more. This book club starts Monday, September 20, 2021.