Saucha has been translated as purity; purity of the body and mind.
Yogis are encouraged to keep the body pure and clean, watch what they eat and how it effects them and stay away from harmful substances.
How do we keep our mind pure though? Can we apply the same guidelines to keep the body pure, to the mind? Can we keep the mind away from harmful substances? Can we watch what goes in to the mind and its effect on our bodies? The harmful substances are the harmful thoughts. We can see the effect of a harmful thought in our bodies immediately after it enters our mind: we feel weak, tense and closed up.
In my journey, there was a time when I thought that keeping the mind away from harmful thoughts, meant literally to push them away, neglecting them and giving them no attention whatsoever. You won’t be surprised to know that it didn’t work. No matter how hard I tried I was unable to keep them away. In fact the very act of wishing them away created more tension in my being; I saw the power they had over me and my inability to keep them at a distance. In my pursuit to keep my mind and body pure I was adding more pressure and weight on myself physically, mentally and emotionally.
I have come to see that a harmful thought is the one that resists the flow of life. A harmful thought is the one that dictates life and tells it how it should be and this includes the inner life of our mind. “I must feel positive and happy all the time” when in fact we feel sad or angry. ‘I must be kind’ when we feel we have nothing to give, “I must feel one with the universe” when in fact we’re feeling separated and so on…
For me, keeping the mind pure means giving it an “allowing” quality. I am allowed to feel sad or angry, I am allowed to feel unwilling to give, I am allowed not to feel oneness with the universe all the time etc. It is said that we empower what we resist, so if there is anything we don’t want to think or feel, the first step is to drop our resistance to it. For years, in my mind, I was mentally opposing what I didn’t want to think and feel and, for years I was unsuccessful and the inner turmoil continued. Now, I allow them to be, instead of pushing against them. I move towards them, watch them, enquire into them rather than force them away. Isn’t this the same technique we use when we slide on ice while driving? We move the steering wheel in the direction of the slide instead of against it? If we go against it, we give the spin more power. If we move towards it, with its direction, it looses its momentum. The same applies to the mind.
As Lao Tzu says:
If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
And in a different poem he says:
If you want to shrink something,
you must first allow it to expand.
If you want to get rid of something,
you must first allow it to flourish.
So when we’re experiencing a negative thought which is making us sad, angry, jealous, resentful and so on; instead of fighting the thoughts that are creating the negativity in our being and instead of bullying ourselves to feel positive, we surrender. We surrender to everything that is happening in the moment and we enter deeper in our present state . That doesn’t mean expanding on the thought that has created the negative emotion. It means stopping the mind to move in the story and bringing it into the awareness of the moment in which the emotion is arising. We start experiencing the emotions fully, by watching their effect on our breath, by becoming aware of the tightness they create in our body. All the while we drop our resistance and ride on the flow of life. A mind that has moved out of the story is a pure mind. Any story, even the story that is inviting us to kindness, to oneness with all beings, to giving, forgiving etc. All of these are results of a pure mind, a mind no longer entangled in the story of “ME”.
An impure mind, results in impure actions. To what good is our kindness if it doesn’t come from a pure heart? To what use is a good deed, if it is a result of our self manipulation? To what good is giving, if it is a result of our own crucifixion? An action that springs out of a pure mind and heart has a quality within it which can change lives for the better; starting with ours.