The de-clutter movement aka Marie Kondo.
We are living in times of unprecedented material prosperity, the likes of which our parents and grandparents could only dream of. Yet, for all the material abundance in our modern world, the widespread appeal of an orderly, pared-down-to-the-basics aesthetic seems to reflect, I feel, an innate yearning deep within the human soul.
The search for purity
The first of the five Niyamas or observances, Saucha is commonly defined as the purity of body and mind which extends to our thoughts, expressions and speech.
Personal hygiene, putting on fresh clothes, putting away the mess and having well organized living spaces – these are external practices of Saucha that align with our instinctive desire for cleanliness and being in pleasant spaces.
Internal Saucha is a little more abstract. Simply put, it is the purity of our thoughts leading to and expressing itself in our words and speech. Just as practicing external Saucha may lead us to purge or remove physical objects that no longer serve us, internal Saucha also requires us to relinquish the unnecessary “accessories of life” that serve our ego, desire for attention and self preservation.
Internal and external Saucha go hand-in-hand. As Swami Venkatesananda said, “One day sit for meditation with dirty feet, the next day clean just your feet, and the next day take a bath and see the effects yourself…. Cleanliness… embraces and encompasses the whole personality. Body, mind, heart, and soul should be clean.” Clean body, clear thoughts, pure speech.
The one aspect of Saucha that resonates most with me is purity of speech. Here, I share my reflections of how I can apply this practice of Saucha in two daily scenarios – namely, at work, and home.
“A man of knowledge restrains his words…”
~ Proverbs 17:27 (Holy Bible)
Covid and working from home has meant that we are now zooming in and out of virtual meetings at the speed of a mouse click. And as easily as we zoom in, we find ourselves zoning out although virtually present.
Indeed, a bane of working life, exacerbated by the pandemic, is having to sit through even more meetings with no clear agenda, that go on for longer than necessary, and are plain distractions from getting the real work done. I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where we’ve felt like everyone was talking about nothing at all.
Too much free speech, no pure speech.
Being in a client-facing role, meetings and presentations are a big part of my work life. So, how could I apply these principles of Saucha to guide my thoughts and speech?
Drawing from the chain of thought-intent-action (speech) in Karma Yoga, here are my perspectives:
Meetings present a trade-off or opportunity cost of time. Time spent in the meeting could have been put to use doing something else more productive.
The meeting must accomplished its original intent, and that the engagement should feel overall positive.
Prepare no more than five key pointers (ideally, just two to three) that I wish to communicate during the meeting.
Confirm at the start that the agenda is well aligned with key stakeholders.
Keep chatter and uncalled-for discourses to a minimum. Banish motherhood statements, and never answer questions that the no one is asking. Only elaborate if asked to.
Listen, ask pointed questions, and listen some more.
Aim to end the meeting before schedule.
While it’s much easier to hide behind a virtual wall and present our best selves in a professional setting, the real test of Saucha in speech is with our closest ones. Often, we let our guard down and don’t think twice about what we’re saying, or how we’re saying it.
And just like what Covid did for the workplace, our familial ties were perhaps put to the test during periods of lockdowns and social restrictions.
“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
~ Luke 6:45 (Holy Bible)
So, when stressors cloud my better judgement, and I feel the junk of negativity creeping into my speech, I need to remind myself to move away from the mind clutter and return to Saucha.
Why are they saying these things or behaving this way? It most likely stems from a inner concern of their heart.
Or am I misinterpreting the situation because of what is in MY OWN heart?
Get to the heart of the matter, literally.
Maybe something happened prior to this incident? Maybe they misunderstood something I said, or vice versa?
I want to understand where you are coming from, just as I also want to be understood.
Did something happen recently? Could you share with me what’s on your mind?
From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive.
Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.
~ Proverbs 16:23-24 (Holy Bible)