Internal Housekeeping: Part Two
In Part 1 we explored how dysfunctional ways of thinking and perceiving contribute to the development of toxins (ama) on both a physical and subtle level, dirtying our perception of the world much like dirt distorts the view out of a window. As the toxins accumulate further and for longer periods of time, Ayurveda teaches us that they crystalize on the gross physical level of our being, blocking passages for communication and for the transport of nutrients.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the yamas and niyamas have provided clear and beautiful solutions on how to cleanse the dirt and rewire the mind. We reviewed the yamas, beginning the process by digging out deep rooted belief systems and ways of thinking and replacing them with proper ways of approaching oneself and the world. Let us now explore the niyamas or personal practices that help maintain the clear window, preventing the falling back into old habitual patterns.
- Saucha. Saucha, or purity, is about living a way of life that facilitates harmony and builds positivity within one's self and one’s environment. We are constantly ingesting thoughts, sights, and words, in addition to the food we eat, and all of this becomes our body and our mind. Saucha is about consciously choosing what we take in and what we push out, such that our being becomes more aligned with our true Self.
- Santosha. Translated as contentment, santosha is about being completely present in the moment. Our inability to be content in the now is due to preoccupations with the past or anticipations of the future. This facilitates a sense of freedom, surrendering to what is and what the universe brings to us. We are part of a larger masterpiece, mere instruments in that masterpiece. It is always important to put forth effort and have intentions, but it is equally important to surrender the fruits of our labor and not have expectations.
- Tapas. Tapas in the Yoga Sutras is talked of as self-discipline. In Sanskrit, it also means fire, as fire is the facilitator of any transformation, a teaching we are well aware of in Ayurveda. The repetition of activities that nourish the Soul ingrain the same qualities within the person. These activities, such as meditating, yoga, and studying scriptures, bring harmony between thought and action and train the senses.
- Svadhyana. Any spiritual transformation requires self-reflection and self-study, or svadhyana. Without looking internally, all knowledge is just knowledge. Knowledge requires personal experience to turn into wisdom and insight. It is wisdom and insight that transforms old belief systems into new ones, rewiring the mind’s internal circuitry.
- Ishvara pranidhana. Ishvara pranidhana is when one surrenders completely and has faith in the Ultimate. When we rely on our own ego, we are bound by the constraints of our mind, which are ultimately those old belief systems. By shifting our faith to the Ultimate, we open to the wisdom and knowledge of the Universe. We become open to the wisdom that is constantly showing itself around us. This is the ultimate form of transformation.
After cleansing and supporting the cleansing process with the yamas and the tools we explored (setting intention, meditation, cleansing, journaling), help your clients continue the process by maintaining the clear window. Remember that ultimately the niyamas boil down to being ever-present, putting in strong effort with discipline, constantly self-reflecting, and surrendering. Consider using the following tools alongside the niyamas in your practice:
- Set a daily routine. The daily routine (dinacharya) of Ayurveda was made to begin each day in alignment with one’s true self, setting the stage of saucha with some tapas. For more information, see this resource on a full daily routine. Start by choosing just a few items to recommend to your clients and add more when they are ready. Having purity externally feeds internal purity and vice versa.
- Meditate daily. This assisted in the cleansing process, but it continues the self-maintenance by helping remove any dirt that may come to surface as the subconscious clears. It also facilitates the habit of being present in the now. Suggest Nadi Shodhana or Empty Bowl Meditation. Any meditative practice is useful.
- Do pranayama (breathing exercises). In Ayurveda, we learn that the breath is the connection between the mind and body. By doing breathing exercises, we bring harmony and order and a rhythm to the breath. This brings harmony, order, and rhythm to the mind. If your client is just beginning, Nadi Shodhana or Bhramari are good starter exercises.
- Self-massage. Self-massage, or abhyanga, can accompany your daily routine and is particularly powerful in that it nourishes the physical and the subtle. The word for oil is sneha, which also translates as love. The practice of abhyanga therefore assists in being content, the niyama of santosha. Try Daily Massage Oil, or if your client knows their prakriti, use an oil that is more appropriate to their constitution or imbalance (Vata Massage Oil, Pitta Massage Oil, or Kapha Massage Oil).
- Have gratitude. It is easy to become dishearted when the mind is occupied with the past or future. Being present and being able to name things that one is grateful for in that moment is an immensely powerful practice. Suggest that your client end each day by naming just three things that they are grateful for from that day.
- Eat wisely. Ayurveda teaches us that what we eat has an immense impact on our body, which is why diet is a core feature of Ayurveda. The very qualities of the food transform the qualities of the body, and the energy with which the food is made impacts the body. Explore Banyan Botanicals’ webpage on diet, which has many articles and resourceful pieces of information that you can offer your clients.