Taken from a recent article I wrote for Integral Yoga Magazine, Summer 2013, on Cultivating the Niyamas.
I recently saw a bumper sticker that said, “Well, at least the war on the environment is going well.” These words captured the angst of our times where in the midst of so much not working, we are successful at polluting and destroying the very thing which nourishes, sustains, and gives us life. In light of a culture which is poisoning itself instead of purifying itself, we need to ask ourselves the deeper questions of what cultivating purity looks like.
The practice of purity can no longer afford to be personal only; it must include the planet. We cultivate purity by being cognizant of our environmental footprints and making sustainable choices. We cultivate purity by attaching ourselves to one of the grass roots organizations involved in serving life rather than destroying it, such as sustainable agriculture, community gardens, alternative sources of power, and micro-loans.
We cultivate purity by guarding what is pure. Whether we find it in pristine places yet untouched, in a species still begging to not go extinct, in the generosity and kindness of our hearts, in the expansive thoughts of our minds, we protect these places from any onslaught of contamination. We nourish these places where we find purity so that the environment of our hearts, minds, and the spaces in which we live are rich with that which welcomes life, not that which poisons it.
Purity is also a cultivation of my relationship with the present moment. A friend was relaying a story to me about a particularly busy day for her. Her 3 year old son kept asking for attention and her response continued to be: just a minute. When he reached his limit of being ignored, he took his mother’s head in his hands, gently pulled it to his face, and looking directly into her eyes firmly said, “You’re not recognizing me!” If the present moment had a voice, I think it would do the same thing to us. The practice of purity then becomes our willingness to recognize the moment and engage fully with it.