I have to be sneaky when I talk about the yoga with my daughter, Hazel. She has a tendency to roll her eyes if I say anything that she might sniff out as a yoga-teaching, “Mo-om (changing pitch half way through), you aaaaah-lways talk about yoga…” But this week with high profile politicians getting heat for twitter comments, I thought it was worthwhile to talk about śauca, the niyama that teaches us about cleanliness in all aspects of our lives.
The two of us laughed over some clever #trudeauEulogies. We talked about the W. Virginia mayor and city employee who lost their jobs because of a racist tweet-exchange and we talked about Trump’s recent four-word tweet after learning of Fidel Castro’s death. Hazel gets that even though we may have a reaction to something that happens, that’s often NOT what we want to say or send into the inter webs. I didn’t grow up with social media and it’s a good thing, too. I wasn’t good about restraint or conversational cleanliness, but what kid does? Growing up now, in this time of texting, social media, and the internet, has it’s gifts, but definetly has it challenges. Kids need to embrace śauca, cleanliness, more than ever.
If Hazel doesn’t leave her books, laundry and dishes all over her bedroom floor, she’ll be less likely to trip over them later. She’ll have fewer stains to scrub out of the carpet and fewer things will get broken because she’s taken care at the front end. Habits of cleanliness are important on the internet, too. All digital exchanges leave a record and internet messes are a lot harder to gather and throw into the washing machine. Digital stuff can be spread far beyond the intended audience. Your peers can hold onto those akward photos sent via text, and they can unearth the inevitable mis-steps or clumsy trial-and-error social experiments long after they should have faded from memory. What pre-teen kids do, say, write, and post can follow them. How can they possibly get the potential impact of that since they’ve only been on the planet for a decade or so? Luckily, we have some fine teaching examples.
The practice of cleanliness is about more than maintaining clean surroundings. The practice has the potential to teach us things about our life and our true nature. If we take care of the stuff we have, we’ll come to understand that the cost of posessions goes beyond the initial price tag. Practices that help us to maintain a clean body, clean thoughts, cleanliness in relationships, and cleanliness in how we conduct ourselves in the world offers other experiential teachings and an opportunity to get to know our tendencies and habits. When we take care in this way, we uncover important truths. In The Heart of Yoga, Mr. Desikachar says this about the result of the practice of śauca (YS II.40), “When cleanliness is devleoped it reveals what needs to be constantly maintained and what is eternally clean. What decays is the external. What does not is deep within us.” Through śauca, we come to know our nature. We can know who we truly are.
Desikachar , T.K.V. (1995). Heart of Yoga, Developing a Personal Practice. Rochester,Vermont: Inner Traditions International