February 22, 2021

The Practice of Saucha: Cleanliness of Body, Mind, Spirit, and Surroundings.


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“Saucha (pronounced s +ouch + a) is a vow of cleanliness of body, mind, spirit, and surroundings, all helping to direct us toward a pure and positive life.”

It is just one of the five Niyamas of yoga.

These are the promises we make to ourselves. I have been living and breathing saucha for the better part of two years. A full year before our renovation, I started cleaning out my “embarrassment of riches” closet and giving away to those who could benefit from my belongings. It was agony at first, so I did this in digestible bites, so I could chew on them a bit. In the beginning, this was gruelling. I would often end up in tears and then feel drained. Clothing is more than cotton. It holds memories and circumstances of our lives.

That same year, I gave away every piece of furniture in the living, dining, and guest area of my home—every lamp, every table, every piece of our life as we knew it, for what was to be next. I didn’t sell anything. I knew I was in a position to give and that felt like good juju. There also had to be a compelling reason for the gifting. “Oh, I love that chair,” wasn’t going to cut the mustard. By Thanksgiving, we had an empty shell, and this would be our “new living space.”

My only criteria for the renovation was that there would be no walls. I wanted an open living space. This came as a result of an illness that created staggering anxiety in me for almost four months. I felt the physical need to be in contact with others. However, I was living in a beautiful cottage where every single room had a door and four walls. If my husband was watching TV in the media room and I was spending time in the living room, we effectively could have been on two different planets in the solar system.

We considered moving, but somehow ended up with a plan to freshen up the living area with new sofas. Somewhere between the furniture search and the completion of our project, we raised the ceilings, levelled the floors, added hurricane windows, and reinvented a space to be called the great room; it lives up to its name. The feeling in our home is transformed. It feels fresh and easy.

I fancied myself a collector, though, I may have been inches away from being a hoarder. I displayed every happy moment in life for all the world to see. I had yet to embrace the concept of less is more. I was fully immersed in the idea that more is more. So everywhere the eye travelled, there was color and it told a story. In isolation, each venue was delightful, but in totality, it was emotionally exhausting for me. Our home felt like a museum exhibit entitled, “The life we lived before our children left.” They have both flown the coop and are out in the world making their mark.

The project’s intention was to transform our space from empty nest to love nest. There would be no more tables full of pictures, and it would be the end of piles of books filling every corner with confusion. It would be a space where we would share together. It would feel like both of us in both form and function. Stuff was no longer my friend and having less was starting to feel lighter, liberating even.

Saucha can be interpreted as a purification of physical space as I’ve described. It can apply to anything in our environment—office or home. It might be a cleansing of the contents of closets, bulging files of paperwork dating back to the year of the frog, or food in your pantry with expiration dates in the 1800s.

This morning, I executed a master cleanse in my closet. I’ve Marie Kondo’d (v.) the hell out of my clothing. The problem is that most of it does bring me joy on some level. The only question I asked today was, “Does it bring utility?” Is it doing more hanging in my closet or would it bring new life to someone who is struggling? I didn’t think about labels, or how much they cost, or how I came into their possession. I took everything off of each shelf, and refolded and replaced only the items I was currently choosing.

I would use the term bone scraping to describe the level of this exercise. For the first time in modern history, I can say with all certainty that every piece of clothing is current. It fits well, it appeals to me, and it represents my style. Five garbage bags later, I am feeling a bit lighter in my step.

It is worthy to mention that saucha also applies to life.

What do you put in your body that doesn’t serve?

Sugar? Alcohol? Drugs? Preservatives? Sex?

What do you fill your mind with that is unconscious?

Chain-smoking Netflix episodes, glued to 24/7 coverage of the never-ending election?

Who do you spend your time with?

Is it time to clean up your friend list? Are they a habit? Do they fill you up or suck you dry? Do they hold you accountable? Do they make you hungry for life or starving for attention?

How much time do you dedicate to you?

Putting yourself on the calendar is the most important of all.

This is my current journey. Where are you headed? Are you on a moving sidewalk putting one foot in front of the other, or are you navigating a course that will take you somewhere? What are you doing each day to follow your passion? How are you making your difference?

Wake up each day and be purposeful. Fill your days with activities that cleanse on any or every level. You may start to remember who you are meant to be.


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