Experiencing Saucha as the Present Moment
Sweeping the front walk, getting our hair trimmed, watering the houseplants, and having our daily shower, are all elements of Saucha. We can even begin to experiment with organic vegetarian diet, or a seasonal cleanse of the body…Spring-cleaning of the house in fact, is a deeper ritual of freshening up and lightening up. These symbolic actions of Saucha (the first Niyama of purity) toward a lightened, healthy body and mind leads to the deeper experience of the quality of Saucha. Its quality of purity makes this a Niyama that settles in and permeates us and our way of life, more than it is something to practice.
As we grow increasingly familiar with its quality through our more symbolic actions, Saucha starts to find its own deepening path within in us, and it becomes a very intimate experience. When we choose to live clearly, purely, we meet ourselves in a different way; we’re meeting ourselves and our life honestly, meaning we meet it in the moment. We may have been living our lives for fifty-two years without realizing that we’ve never really made contact with the life we’re living. And we can feel kind of mind-blown when we realize this.
Artwork copyright by Heide Presse
The way we breathe is a beautiful indicator of where we’re really living. Rapid breathing, shallow breathing, belly breathing, are all transmitting information that we’re obliterating the present moment with tensions from the past that we’re not letting go of, or a future we’re anticipating. Like the breath, Saucha leads us to feel into our very honest selves, and there is no hiding there (which ends up being a good thing). In contrast to the endless flow of distraction, the present moment can feel like a blunt awareness, because it will instantly reveal to us the nature of our mind. It shows up in the squeamishness, it doesn’t take years of therapy to feel it. Our myriad tendencies and reasons for living in either time-warp of “future” or “lagging behind” (or both, in some cases) come tumbling forward. The discomfort can begin to crawl all over us…fears, control, what-if’s, etc…they all arise instantly. To continually draw ourselves back into the moment, from either the future or the past can feel literally, like being tugged by two children who are actively playing on a seesaw.
But once this moment passes, Saucha is beautiful(!) as we experience (maybe for the first time) the exquisite softness of our nature. Drawing ourselves back to the middle of that seesaw, reorienting ourselves in present time, we experience Present Time’s lack of expectation and its gentleness. It can feel foreign to remain balanced in that center, actually feeling quite comfortable to instead follow ourselves forward or back in time. It’s a challenging task to rest in the present moment as it is, to honestly see ourselves for who we are and what we’ve become. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we think we’re a bad person, but fears can come tumbling into that moment with any arising notions of letting go.
But what are we letting go of? …of our assumptions of how and why we should do things, of expectations of what’s going to happen if we don’t drive our life forward…because hey, if we’re present in the moment, we can’t be pressing forward can we? This concept can feel threatening to the construction site we’ve made in the mind….threatening to the assumptions that we’re lazy, that we won’t live up to the pressing demands of our culture. But Saucha’s requirement of purely being in the moment, devoid of distraction, is being truly purposeful and it’s really quite gentle. This quiet of the moment tells us about what we really need to be doing, it tells us about what really matters, and if we want to hear that then we’ll naturally prioritize what we hear from that moment.
This meeting of ourselves intimately is such a brilliant first step toward the rest of the Niyamas. No wonder it comes first! Such an exquisite mind was Patanjali, to have laid out the framework for our liberation in such an unexpectedly perfect way.