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Exploring Saucha for the New Year

Exploring Saucha for the New Year

by Beth Lewis, Yoga and Mindfulness Teacher

The tradition of setting a new year’s resolution began some 4,000 years ago when the ancient Babylonians crowned their new king and started their crops. For them, mid-march marked a time to begin anew. Their resolutions were promises to return borrowed items and to pay their debts ( Today, common resolutions tend to be centered around ideas of self-improvement such as fitness and dieting goals. On the surface, modern day resolutions are very different from sowing gardens for survival and honoring kings, but the seeds of intention fueling these resolutions are quite similar and rooted in similar notions, newness and beginnings.

Beginnings offer us a chance to enter with clearness and purity. Our goals and intentions are clutter free and the day-to-day hasn’t yet collected excuses and exceptions. If your goal is to take a morning walk before driving to work, it is inevitable that you will miss a few days here and there due to rain or hitting the snooze button too many times, and this is okay. These exceptions and excuses are normal and to be expected. There is no such thing as ‘always’ or ‘perfect’. After a few months though, the newness and clearness of our goal loses its luster, the shine wears away and can end up looking more like a nag or a job inviting apathy or disappointment. The intention behind the goal becomes cluttered with time and circumstance and we are back to being uninspired.

How can we keep our intentions clutter free? 

How can we keep a sense of beginning once our crop is

planted and growing? 

How can we continually meet our goals with the same pureness of intention as

we did in the beginning without it becoming a rigid checkmark on our To-do list?

I look to the ancient Indian texts such as the Mahabharata and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It is in contemplating the virtue of saucha, or clearness and purity, that I see my invitation. Saucha is the first of the 5 internal ethics, or Niyamas, of the 8-Limbed Path of Yoga. Saucha can be practiced in many ways, the easiest is practicing cleanliness of the body. More difficult to practice is the pureness or clearness of speech and the most difficult is pureness and clearness of the mind. Practicing saucha externally, for the body, involves cleaning the body and maintaining good personal hygiene. It also involves keeping clutter from piling up in your environment such as your office, home, car, and even your purse! 

Saucha in speech involves being mindful in your communication and being sure that what you say or communicate is aligned with how you want to be represented in the world. Are you speaking from a place of helpfulness and contributing?

Saucha of the mind and in thought is easy to explain but is not always so easy to do. It requires paying attention to the fluctuations in the mind, such as thought patterns or negative thinking. Most importantly, we need to notice these fluctuations in a non-judgemental way and find balance between acceptance of any negative thoughts. It is in this observance and acceptance that the opportunity for clearness and pureness to breathe is allowed. You can liken this concept to fanning an ember to warm the hearth, first noticing it, giving it some space by clearing the soot and ash away, and allowing it to breathe and grow. Saucha for the mind also means entering into beginner’s mind, a state of mindset that is open to possibilities without any preconceptions. This is the invitation that can help keep the sparkle of new year’s resolutions well into the year, to stay aligned with the purity of intention. It is through the practice of saucha that we can enjoy external benefits such as good hygiene practices and better enjoyment of our spaces. Through clear communication, our interpersonal relationships are healthier and stronger and purity and clearness of mind is a worthy virtue to uphold on it’s own.

Practicing saucha can improve mood and overall outlook but only if we come from a place of self-compassion and remember that there is no such thing as ‘always’ or ‘perfect’. Remember we practice saucha, it is not a goal, some days this will prove easy while other days challenging. When digging a little deeper, the practice of saucha in relation to our intentions is a rich invitation to remain clutter free in a beginner’s mind. Saucha offers the seeds of intention, a richness of soil to grow and flourish from a place of joy.