What to Observe This Year?
It is the start of a new year. What should we try and observe throughout the upcoming year? In the practice of yoga purity is the first observance. It means we should observe the practice of purity in body, mind and soul, as well as thoughts words and deeds.
Purity has two levels, internal and external. The body is purified by water, the mind is purified by truthfulness and the soul is purified by knowledge and austerity.
Let’s focus on physical purity. Eating a healthy diet that gives life force back to the body, as well as hydrating it with life replenishing water is said to bring the light from the temple (the body) to an intense place where energy is uplifted and health is restored. This is not too difficult to understand. When we eat healthy we are supplying the body with the nutrients it needs to function at its optimal level. When the body is healthy, energetic and strong we are able to achieve more. This sense of achievement is not about achieving through competition, but rather the kind of achievement that comes about when we feel good and have more energy to absorb and appreciate the fundamental aspects of life.
The mind becomes pure when we practice truthfulness. But truthfulness can be a slippery slope. Truth sometimes can be like a two edged sword. One side can cut and maim while the other can carve and create. Whatever the nature of truth, to practice purity, the truth should be practiced with the intent to do the greatest good for the greatest many. A simple understanding of how the truth can be confusing is told through this yoga story. A yogi was sitting in the woods meditating when a beautiful deer went leaping past him. The yogi marveled at the beauty of the animal. Soon a hunter came running up to the yogi and asked the yogi if he had seen the deer. If the yogi tells the truth the deer will be killed. If he does not tell the truth the hunters’ family may go hungry and die. What should the yogi do? Always choose the greatest good for the greatest many.
The soul is purified by knowledge and austerity. That means that we should seek to know so that we can discern between what is pure and what is not. It also means that we need to experience austerity which is the ability to withstand hardships. Without undergoing hardships self-discipline cannot be attained, and without self-discipline we can never find contentment, and without contentment we can never find happiness. A purified soul is free of earthly pollution such as unhealthy emotions, prejudices and misperceptions.
In today’s world it is not always easy to observe purity. Stress makes it difficult to stay focused on our health. The truth can get blurred between the lines and nobody wants to endure hardships. However, if we do practice purity by focusing on a healthy lifestyle, speaking the truth with the intent to do no harm and implementing self-discipline when faced with hardships we will discover that nature has a perfect rhythm, and if followed that perfect rhythm will allow us to observe the pure perfect harmony in life, and that is what to observe this year and in all the years to come
Happy New Year — may it be full of health, happiness and peace