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  • Writer's pictureDayna Culwell

Are you find Purity (Saucha) or Pollution?

Purity and Pollution

One of the niyamas, the second limb of yoga as outlined by Patanjali, is purity, or cleanliness. In the modern world, one of the biggest challenges to purity as it affects health has to do with environmental pollution. Since pollutants make it into the food you eat, the water you drink, and the air you breathe----and can’t be avoided entirely no matter what you do or where you live--this is an issue that touches everyone.

While traveling through Italy, I enjoyed the freshness of the food! It seemed good smelling foods were all around us. You didn’t see much processed foods for sale. However, even Italy can’t seem to pass this summer unscathed. The heat intensity we are going through here in the U.S. has hit Italians hard as well. The small air conditioned units we encountered in places like Varenna, Lake Como, really struggled to keep up. During the day, the owners turned down our shades and flipped off the AC.

What can you do as an individual to promote environmental purity? In addition to recycling, how can you produce less waste? My step daughter, Simone, back when she was at Lake Travis High, was given an ingenious assignment. Each student was given a large black plastic trash bag. They were to put all of their trash in this bag and they had to carry it around with them for the week. Near the end of the week, Simone was straining to carry the heavy bag. Not only was it getting too heavy, it was embarrassing to reveal to fellow classmates how much waste she (and others had accumulated). When we are forced to hold on to our own trash, we are much more likely to do all we can to reduce waste. What if we had to walk a block or two in order to shop for groceries? We’d probably choose half the usual amount and call it a day!

In the same way, when traveling in Europe without a car, you learn to pack lightly and not buy a bunch of trinkets! Bill and I brought one medium size suitcase each, along with a backpack. We relied on 5 separate trains to move us from Milan to Monterosso, to Rome, to Florence, to Venice, and to Varenna (near Lake Como). When the train arrives at the platform, it’s time to hustle! Hoisting my bag up onto the train carriage, I’d grit my teeth, and usually skin my knee in order to clear the 3-4 steep stairs with my bag. I cannot imagine how old or frail folks traveling solo accomplished this feat. Once on the train, Bill would somehow hoist both bags up high into the luggage area. Once at our hotel or apartment space, we’d drag all our stuff up 2-4 flights of stairs to our little room! This exercise was great for getting to eat more but it made you ask the question, “What’s in this bag that I need so critically?. Doing more with less stuff is my new motto!

Yoga suggests that you look beyond the effect your diet and your waste have on your health and state of mind and consider its broader karmic implications. Karma sometimes gets expressed as “What goes around comes around.” The Bible similarly advises that you reap what you sow.

How can we consume food while giving back to the land? How does the idea of solar energy, wind energy, and collecting rainwater sit with you? Is it doable? Is it practical? I was listening to a DuoLingo podcast on a guy who, together with a student from his master studies program class, learned how people in very rural Mexico were dependent upon water trucks to bring in water supplies. Families were often forced to wait 5-7 days without clean drinking water. Many kept buckets on the rooftops to collect rainwater, but even that water supply was not reliable and not always clean. The two graduate students used what they saw and created a filtering system that enables rural communities to collect and store clean rainwater. The impact on the families in these rural communities is life changing. What’s more, helping families use their native resources more fully prevents them from needing to leave their communities. It allows them to stay where they know and love. The graduate students implemented a learn and share system to provide entire villages to be more independent and not rely on petroleum hogging water trucks to bring in clean water.

Gratitude for the Body, by Marianne Williamson

Dear God, As I rise up, I thank you for the opportunity to be on this earth.

I thank You for my mind and my body.

I thank You for my life.

Please bless my body and use it for Your purposes.

May I rise up strong today, and may my body and soul radiate Your love.

May all impurities be cast out of my mind, my heart, my body.



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