an oasis in the midst of laundry

I'm in the midst of running my first yoga teacher training in Kingston at studio330 with my dear friend dallas, and there's a lot of conversation among students about developing their own practice. They mulled over various challenges, including knowing which poses to do, the challenge of making time rather than expecting to "find" time, as well as making space in their home for a yoga practice. We all agreed a conscientious effort to make arrangements is required.

after the ecstasy the laundry copy.jpg

The perfect space rarely appears in our home just like time doesn't appear in our day. I like to practice with relative quiet in a very clean and tidy room that has a calming atmosphere. I repainted my yoga room because the beige we inherited was uninspiring, and some may consider the room sparse where I see room for opportunity and movement. I also see opportunities for practicing the niyamas...

The first of the niyamas (observances or rituals) as described by the sage Patanjali is 'saucha' or cleanliness. Saucha is the cleanliness of the body and the external world in order to purify the energy within - the process and ritual of cleaning, whether it be a shat kriya, tidying ourselves, or vacuuming our practice space - is in preparation for our practice so we can be free of distraction and focus on our internal work.

As a woman with a zest for clean baseboards, I am intimately acquainted with the distraction of an unclean space. I'm fortunate to be able to close the door on the laundry and dishes, but the dog's hair knows no boundaries. I have spent hours trying to rid both the dog and the house of his hair, and a few stray hairs will still imprint on my mat... and then on my face, should I get close enough.

In her excellent article The Sacred Circle of Yoga: A Look into the Niyamas, Catherine Ghosh writes about saucha in the context of Arjuna - the prince whose story is The Bhagavad Gita. "Arjuna’s mind was unsteady in the Gita, as he struggled with riding into the battlefield, resisting the inevitable unfolding of his life. Yet the real battle was not really with the circumstances around him, as much as it was with how he related to those circumstances. The battle, therefore, is in our own “flickering, unsteady, straying” minds, as Krishna tells Arjuna."

Here are my circumstances: the dog is going to shed, I want a clean practice space, and I cannot make time every day for a full cleaning ritual. The compromise I have negotiated with myself, is that my mat will be very clean with the aid of a sticky lint roller and microfibre cloth with lemon-water spray. I will wipe my feet before stepping into my practice, and I accept that some days, this is my best effort.

In his book "After the Ecstasy, the Laundry", Jack Kornfield writes about "ordinary perfection", where we find perfection in nonperfection: "we meet the world with our heart as it is", because otherwise our quest for peace will be in conflict with our every day life.

Make time, make space, and decide what perfect nonperfection you can accept to facilitate your practice. Should even the lint roller be unavailable, closing your eyes always helps.