Friday, July 9, 2010


This month's topic of shaucha is one that seems pretty easy. Shaucha, the first of the niyamas, or second limb of Yoga, refers to the concept of cleanliness, purity and orderliness. We can think of it as how we keep our homes, how we take care of our bodies and how we take care of our relationships. But shaucha also refers to how we direct our energies, and how we create both structure and freedom by creating a sense of order around us and within us. The trick, to me, with shaucha, is how to create order that feeds and nourishes my whole being, and not to use a false sense of order, or the "way things should be," to limit my own growth and opportunity. Sometimes, to find this sense of order, we actually have to be willing to rock the boat a bit, which may seem at first that we are creating more chaos than order.

Last Sunday I got to experience Loga, a brand of Laughter Yoga, developed by local Seattlite Andrew Whitiver, who will be opening our Sal-u-thon. Andrew offers Loga for free every Sunday at 11 am in Cal Anderson Park. I was given his name by a mutual contact, and as soon as we spoke on the phone I knew this would be an important relationship, and I was eager to meet Andrew in person. I was especially excited that he was immediately willing to help with the Sal-u-thon, our primary fundraising event of the summer, just by hearing about all the amazing things we do at The Samarya Center. He asked that I come to Loga in the park before committing him to our event, to make sure I knew what I was getting into. I had heard of
Laughter Yoga, and I really liked Andrew, but I wasn't sure I actually wanted to try Loga. It's not really "me." I don't just go out to the park, meet up with a bunch of strangers, open myself up to them, follow the exercises (laughing chorus anyone? perhaps a laughing shower?), and lovingly connect through a kind of odd process on a normal Sunday morning. I just don't "do" that sort of thing. I may seem to many of you like a person who is up for anything, happy to be goofy, and loves to laugh, and I am that, but I am also a person who likes to be and stay in control. So when I'm asked to do something that invites me to give up that control, that sense of order, I bristle, get all awkward and stand-offish, and generally keep myself on the periphery.

Last Sunday in the park was no different. As I walked up to the group of normally dressed, normal looking, laughing people, one, who turned out to be Andrew, said, "You must be Molly." There was a moment right there and then when I thought, I could just smile, say no and keep walking, and then the very next thought, "I have to stay, and I have to make a conscious decision right now to let down my guard, be totally present and non-judgmental, be open to the experience, and then decide if I liked it or not." I stayed, I smiled, I laughed, I was moved. So much so, in fact, that I ended up offering an experience of two minutes of non-stop pretend-turning to real laughter for a group of folks at The Bailey Boushay House. When we were done, they expressed the same thing ~ that they felt lighter, more connected and more at ease. I never would have known this experience if I had insisted on my own self-prescribed sense of order in my own identity. When I opened myself up to the possibility that this was a self-imposed limitation, when I "rocked my own boat" a little, I got to have an incredibly connecting experience. I created a new (inner) world order.

Over the past month, I have been thinking about this idea a lot, especially in regard to communication, and how much we muddy the waters of relationship and expression by holding too tightly onto our ideas of how we communicate, even how we are. Again, in an effort to maintain order, either by being too forceful in our communications, or being less than honest because we don't want to hurt someone's feelings or make waves, or being reactive because we don't have the whole truth because that might require us stepping outside of our comfort zone, we end up creating more disconnection, confusion and chaos.

So here again is an example of a self-imposed, identity based idea of order, that in fact brings us less structure, less reliability, less freedom. We consider ourselves to be clear communicators because we "tell it like it is," only to find out that the people who agreed with us out of fear, in fact are harboring resentments and misgivings. We consider ourselves to be the type that "doesn't create problems, goes with the flow," only to discover that we have put ourselves and others in awkward positions, because no one actually knows what is going on, and people are working on false assumptions of what is. We react to a communication to us without looking deeper into it, because we consider ourselves to be "trusting and forthright," only to find out that the person communicating to us is just as unclear as we are sometimes, and in fact, if we took the time to check back, patiently and without judgement, we might find out that we are actually on the same page.

So Shaucha, which at first seems so easy, might actually be a little deeper and trickier than we might think. Oh, Yoga. Isn't that how it always is? But yes, Yoga is a practice of awareness, of self-reflection, of "undoing" our most ingrained senses of ourselves so that we might open up to something even more beautiful, more intricate than anything we ever imagined ourselves to be. Yoga is the gift of discovery of oneself as something divine, perfect, complex and finally, free.

So Shaucha is an attending to a sense of order and purity, finding structure that helps us to live in a place of greater tranquility and freedom. But we might use our more subtle awareness to check in, to make sure that what we see as order, the way things MUST be, is actually serving, and not limiting, us. That our sense of structure and order is not simply something that we have decided is so, whether in our homes, our schedules, our identities, or our communications, that this so called "structure" is not actually limiting our deeper experience.

Finally, I must confess that in my own effort to be eternally optimistic and never let anyone know that I have anxiety about my future and the future of the Center, I often understate our need for help. Here is my clear communication: We really need your help now. Please reflect on what The Samarya Center means to you, and what it is worth in your mind, heart and yes, pocketbook, to keep it going. I know the Sun Sal-u-thon will be a huge success. Please be a part of that. We are all in this together.

~ with much love and light ~ molly

"When I dare to be powerful- to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." ~Audre Lorde