Lately, I’ve been exploring the yamas and niyamas, the ethical guidelines laid out in the first
two limbs of Patanjali’s eightfold path of yoga. I chose to focus on one yama and one niyama that seem so intertwined, they couldn’t be separated one from the other. I have been
working on shaoca (cleanliness/purity, niyama) for a couple weeks, the impetus being a
friend’s visit and the need for a clean guest room. There is a settling in the mind that comes
with cleanliness and order, and I long to have that, but feel it would require an
uninterrupted month solely focused on purging the clutter in order to maintain cleanliness.
Who has that kind of time? The strides I’ve made so far give me hope. Sadly, after making
progress, there is an inevitable pattern that occurs like clockwork in my house – order
devolving back into chaos. I like to think I’m getting incrementally better over time.
Optimistically, I remain committed to the aspiration of having an immaculate, organized
home.

The second principle, aparigraha (simplicity/non greed/non accumulation, yama),
unavoidably arises once the purging begins. For emotional support, I watch an inspirational
video. Then, just as I begin to feel superior to the average American, and start actually
getting rid of things, my resolve wavers. What if civilization collapses and I need this in the
future but can no longer acquire it? I try to let go of those thoughts and watch a
commercial that pops up in my feed. Suddenly I’m intrigued by the way people are
profiting with companies that capitalize on coaxing people into letting go of their stuff.
Once I realize I can make money selling things, it’s a quick hop, skip and jump away from
aparigraha to the excited thought of, “What do I want to buy with all that money?” You see
the problem? It’s not only a slippery slope, it’s circular. I get rid of things and then feel I’m
entitled to reward myself with a new thing, or two or three. Two steps forward, one step
back.

I obviously haven’t mastered the principles yet; that may take lifetimes. Rather, I have
surrendered to being in the process. As I think more deeply about shaoca and aparigraha,
and my short comings around these principles, I begin to think of cleanliness and simplicity
in ways not associated with material possessions. What about simplicity in thought and in
relationships? What about talking less, engaging less, listening more? What about being
neat, clean and deliberate with my words? We fill our lives with so many activities,
relationships, mental constructs, work, and so on. How do we approach and deal with that
clutter?

My goal now is to practice shaoca and aparigraha not only by cleaning and clearing my
physical space, but also by maintaining pure, uplifting thoughts and simplicity in
relationships. I’m excited about the idea of exploring the principles of shaoca and
aparigraha as a holistic practice in the physical and mental realms. And who knows? If
successful, maybe the mess will take care of itself.

This post was written by Michele Renee

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