Saucha and (Healthy) Compartmentalization


The first of the niyamas, the “dos” of yoga, is saucha, which means purity. It has also been interpreted as orderliness. Ironically, as I sat down reflect on saucha and write this, I was experiencing a sense of extreme disorder. A few months ago, I decided that as much of my studio space was not being used (due to the pandemic), and I supposedly had time on my hands (due to the pandemic, which I have since realized is a fallacy), I would use one end of the studio space as a place to bring things from my storage space and sort them, getting rid of things I do not need and packing up things I want to keep into neatly-labelled boxes.


Great idea, but it has become chaos. I don’t have the time or energy to spend days on end on this project, so I do a bit a time. Sounds reasonable. However, I find it hard to keep this physical clutter from becoming mental clutter. Every time I get a new job assignment, I think, “How am I going to get this done when I have this big mess?” Every time I want to go for a walk or do something pleasant, I think, “I really should be spending this time cleaning up that mess.”


One solution to this issue would be to set aside a week and do nothing but sort and clean. However, this is not likely to happen. I have two kids and two businesses, all of which are unpredictable and require regular work and upkeep. Also, realistically, once this mess is tidied up, there will be something else to take its place. The “to do” list will never be complete. I have spent a lot of time fighting this situation. I can’t quite believe I won’t hit a point when I am done all of the stuff. However, all the evidence is pointing to this reality. I will always have stuff I feel I should be doing. I can’t wait until this stuff is done to do enjoyable things, or I will never have time to do enjoyable things, the things that, ultimately, make life worth living. I am pretty sure I will not be on my deathbed worrying that the junk drawer in the kitchen never go straightened out, but I know I will have regrets if I don't take time to enjoy my life.


Life is always going to be a bit chaotic, so how do we bring a sense of saucha or order to it? Isn’t that just fighting against reality? It is true that we are never going to be able to impose order on all of the things in our lives. However, we can bring some orderliness to how we approach things. The research shows that multitasking is a myth. Our brains really can’t focus on two things at once. We just switch back and forth quickly. Thus, if we are trying to focus on too many things, we are just doing them all in a disorderly, inefficient way.


The way we can bring some amount of order to our lives is to engage in healthy compartmentalization, to focus on one thing at a time. When we work, we work. We don’t keep checking our phones, email or social media. When we are doing something enjoyable, we focus on it. When thoughts about other things we should be doing intrude, we can acknowledge that they are there but remind ourselves that we are doing this thing right now and bring our minds back to the present moment. Easier said than done, but a worthy pursuit.

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