शौच संतोष तपः स्वाध्यायेश्वरप्रणिधानानि नियमाः ॥३२॥
Following along with our 8 Limbs we now enter into the 2nd of the 8 Limbs that consist of five Niyamas. They are rules and represent observances of how to treat ourselves.
The Five Niyama are:
1 Saucha – Cleanliness
2 Santosha – Contentment
3 Tapas – Self-discipline
4 Svadhyaya – Self-study
5 Ishvara-Pranidhana – Devotion to God
The practice of yoga is contemplative. We use different ideas and concepts to move towards a greater truth, or at least as close to “the” truth as possible. Saucha (cleanliness) is the first of the Niyamas (observances). We find these in Patanjali’s compilation of the Yoga Sutras. To understand an accurate description of Saucha, we can use the natural world for examples. Perhaps you have had the pleasure of walking along a pristine flowing river and observed the innate serenity and purity of the crystal-clear water as it is pulled by gravity downstream. The water naturally purifies itself as it flows along the river bed, mixing with the minerals and nutrients of the planet. Or maybe you have sat by a campfire under the open sky and watched the embers slowly combust the logs into charcoal. Fire burns and destroys, but its ashes leave the land fertile and productive. This flow of self-healing energy reveals to us the regenerative capacity of the natural world, which we are just as much a part of. “The human being is a part of a whole, a whole that we call the universe,” said Albert Einstein. Integrating ourselves more harmoniously with the rhythms of nature will help us to understand Saucha.
We are literally the Planet. Our immune systems operate optimally when they are exposed to diverse natural conditions. Playing in the dirt, and walking in the forest, these things may sound romantic, and they are, however, they should also feel familiar, like something we do every day. Not something we avoid and never make time for. Realizing you and the planet’s biodiversity are one, will pave the way for nothing less than a shift in identity.
Thich Nhat Hahn would famously say that we and the planet “Interbe”. Meaning that without Earth there could be no human being. Understanding our relationship with the Earth allows us as Humans to expand beyond ourselves through direct experience. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, without it we could not “Be”. Learning to love the planet properly will generate many insights into Saucha.
The water we drink has a profound impact on our minds and bodies. It is said that the human body undergoes more than 37 billion biochemical reactions per second, every one of which is water dependent. Yet studies have found that 75 percent of people are chronically dehydrated, while production industries around the world pollute and damage our access to clean water. Taking care of our bodies by drinking plenty of clean high-quality water is essential, and goes hand in hand with our duty as custodians of the land to ensure that our water runs clean and clear forever. Indigenous populations all around the world demonstrate a sacred connection to water; we should immediately emulate this. May we learn how to, both metaphorically and physically, purify our connection to the sacredness of Water.
A healthy body supports a healthy mind. The health and vitality of the physical body is the platform we use to generate new and innovative ideas to combat the constantly evolving requirements for life on planet Earth. We should understand that the body is an organic biological organism that has evolved over millions of years of adaptations on planet Earth. These adaptations took place in the garden of Mother Earth. A garden kept warm by the Sun. One of the most simple ways to support a healthy physical body is sunlight. Vitamin D, which is essential in the processes of regenerating cells, is made in the body when exposed to sunlight. The warm rays of the sun help us purify our bodies and minds.
The less fortunate of the world depend on us to implement the necessary adjustments to our culture quickly and efficiently. The delusion that we are superior and separate from the “whole of life” is what isolates and sterilizes us. Reconciliation can begin today. Train your mind and eye to seek out and cherish diversity in every element of your life. Educate yourself on the natural processes of the world and acquire the knowledge that tips the scales towards reintegrating humanity into the “whole”. Only when we have reached a place of harmony with nature can our cleanliness be ensured.
Cleanliness of the mind, body, home, and surroundings are important steps to clearing the path to our next stages of life.
One step at a time….
Hari Om Tat Sat