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It’s a new week, and we’re rolling over into a new branch of yoga as well as a new spiritual sadhana.
Welcome to your Niyamas sweet friends and dear readers! The first limb of yoga are your Yamas, things we abstain from; Niyamas are observances we make, either about ourselves or the outside world.
The first of the Niyamas is Saucha, which translates to the practice of “purity”. In many ways, it mirrors the practice of Ahimsa (non-violence in word, thought and deed towards all sentient beings); To practice Saucha is to practice with purity in word, thought, and deed. In other words: what is your intention in word, thought and deed? Are your words based in love and compassion? Are your thoughts kind? Are your actions honest and pure in their intent?
Some use this practice to clean up their practice, clean up their mat, clean up the space that surrounds them. This week, I’d like to focus on cleaning up our thoughts.
If you’ve read me for any amount of time, you’re familiar with what I’ve called “The Asshole Inner Voice” or The AIV. The AIV tends to show up when we least need it, telling us the worst possible things about ourselves. It’s the killer of self esteem and self worth. Listen to it for too long, and you’re going to be wondering what the purpose is, or thinking you absolutely can’t.
My AIV sounds like my mother, as well as a former friend of mine who always had something hateful and negative to say, always thrilled to be able to bring up the worst moments of your life in an attempt to knock you down when you’re feeling wonderful.
Repeat after me, kiddos: “Asshole Inner Voice, shut the fuck up.”
One thing that I have found after forty-three circuits around the sun is that most often, the worst things we believe about ourselves are stories we’ve been told about ourselves by other people. It’s an amazing phenomenon: we can be told one hundred times by one hundred different people we’re beautiful, yet one person tells us we’re not, and we remember that one versus the one hundred. Related to this is the phenomenon that certain people’s words have more weight than others’; a random person reading my work will compliment me on it, and I’m grateful and say thank you; my editor compliments me on my work, and I’m going to be beaming with pride for weeks after.
How often do we allow our thoughts impact us negatively? And how often do we allow our thoughts impact us positively? Those negatively impacting thoughts are often driven by past hurts, either from things we’ve heard about ourselves or emotional trauma that we have survived. Yet, those positively impacting thoughts rarely over ride the negative ones.
When we’re on our mats, how often do we allow those less than stellar thoughts about ourselves to filter in, affecting our practice? I’ve often heard (and I am very guilty of stating this myself) “I can’t do that…” from students. What I, and they, should be saying is, “I can’t do that yet.” Until we actually try, how do we know if we can or cannot do something?
There’s an amazing thing that happens when a person believes they can do something: the goal they’re shooting for is accomplished. Whereas if you go in thinking it’s going to be a failure, it will turn out as a failure.
If we clean up our thoughts, remove the filters and stories other people have layered over us, if we step back, take an inhale and exhale, reset, and then approach our practices (as well as our lives) with a clear, clean mind, how beautiful will our practice become? If we love ourselves a bit more unconditionally, with a pure heart, with a pure mind, we’ll find ourselves moving forward and deeper into this life we’ve been given.
Be good to yourself and to one another,