Yoga Sutra, ch. 2, v. 40: Cleanliness or purity reveals what needs to be maintained and protected; what decays is external, what does not, is deep within.
When I think of purity I think of pure, crystal-clear water, or pure, clean mountain air. But what does practicing purity look like?
Purity as an emotional practice is the act of clarifying your emotional perceptions and projections and eliminating ambiguity. Emotional clarity and purity are very much the same.
Clarifying your emotions and reviewing your daily habits on a regular basis brings purity. Purity is the act of being honest and kind to yourself every single day. When you start with one activity and shape it into a habit, it's the beginning of your Emotional Yoga practice. Practice maintains purity, re-aligns your values, points out the need for adjustments, and refreshes your emotional reservoir.
For example, take a look at the personal habits you are currently choosing. Each one directly influences the state of your emotions on a daily basis. Find out if any of them is a choice that no longer nurtures or serves you well.
Make a self-inquiry. Does your body feel strong and healthy? Are you getting enough rest? Are you overeating, or drinking or smoking too much? Do you have a habit of hanging out in front of the TV and watching what you don't like? What do you take in through your senses? How do the things you watch, listen to, smell, taste, and touch affect your feelings and thoughts? How do you react to these things? Is it an enjoyable reaction?
Who are your friends? Are they pleasant and supportive, or are they negative and critical?
To develop emotional purity, acquire the habit of checking in with yourself several times a day to see what you like and what feels good. Ask yourself: “What am I feeling about this?” and listen to your response. Try experimenting with yourself in the following ways.
— When you are hungry, ask your body first what it would like to eat, and then eat the foods that not only taste good but feel good in your body.
— Satisfy yourself, and treat your senses to the highest quality of influences and images. Ask yourself what you most like to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell.
— Observe yourself around violent images and agitating sounds. Ask yourself what these images and sounds feel like in your body. Get out into natural environments and notice how you feel in contrast.
— Look at your surroundings. Are they orderly, beautiful? How do they make you feel? Make them visually stimulating, refreshing, and clean. Is there something you can add to make you happy?
— Take a few minutes each day to consciously observe yourself and how you feel, in silence.
— Keep filtering out the external noise and listen to your inner self.
— Eliminate an excessive habit, such as gossiping, from your life.
— Break a habit. Try something new that frees you and makes you excited, energized, and joyous.
In the end, it doesn't matter how much you know about purity or how well you can explain it to others. It's not even important whether you have reached a “state of purity.” What is important is how well you integrate the habits of purity, and how much purity you manifest in your life moment by moment.
Purity is silent. It is cultivated. It comes from your heart.
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(Photo: Liz Scheiner Photography, Lake Michigan, 2016)