Continuing our study of putting Sanatan Dharma into practice, this week we looked at the fifth principle, Shaucha - cleanliness. We felt that the concept of purity was a more helpful way of looking at the subject, and considered purity of body, mind and heart.
In answer to the question "what practices help you develop awareness of the body", group members mentioned the Alexander Technique and Iyengar yoga. Both of these help in producing stillness and clarity of mind as well as correct habits of movement and posture. Another group member uses observation of unnecessary tension in the body as a way of alerting her to identification. Deliberate relaxation reduces the stranglehold of identification to the point where it can be gently released.
It seems to be relatively easy to say "This is not I" to the things we don't like about ourselves. But what about all our good qualities - those attributes or natural talents which are appreciated by others and seen as kind or helpful or enriching? Those are also "not I" but it's very hard not to claim them for ourselves.
One person remarked on how the quotation on pre-attention had entirely changed her attitude to practice. It showed how all the 'hindrances to Self-realisation' that H.H. talked about are actually habitual pathways in the brain that operate below the level of conscious experience. So the purpose of practice is to change these habitual pathways. Trying to change what is going on in the cortex each time something 'bad' arises is not going to help significantly. What is needed is the indirect approach of a large amount of regular, persistent practice of meditation, self-observation, and attention. It is interesting that these three practices occur in some form in almost all esoteric traditions and mystical branches of religions.
Several agreed that we should be focusing on self-observation as an essential method for purifying the Antahkaran.
Most people found it difficult to 'draw a line in water'. One person asked: 'if we have to be without thoughts all the time, not thinking about what we've just done or what we are going to do next, that sounds like a very empty life - filled with nothing at all. And how can anything happen?' Another replied 'that's how it is meant to be. Things will just happen anyway. You don't need to think about it.'
One person was particularly attracted by Thich Nhat Hhan's method of dealing with negative emotion. She mentioned his more detailed description of a five step process which occurs later in the book:
- Observe the negative feeling.
- Own it. It is within you - not produced by someone else.
- Hold it in the mind in conjunction with the memory of your aim, or your love for Param-Atman.
- Comfort it as a mother comforts a child and allow it to disappear.
- Examine the causes. (Usually a threat to I - the strong individual that I think I am, Me - the vulnerable creature that gets hurt by others, or Mine - the things I think I possess which I'm not going to let go of.)