Sat Yoga 5S (and beyond): The Synergistic Process of Transformation through Intelligence and Purity

By Satya Dass |

Sat Yoga Ashram is experimenting with applying the Japanese workplace organizational method known as “5S” as part of our ashram logistics and karma yoga processes. We are happy to share the insights we have already gained from this courageous and creative journey. And keep reading to the end to discover Shunyamurti's secret recipe for converting the horizontal 5S system to the vertical project of the liberation of consciousness from illusion - 7S!

The Alchemy of 5S

The path of Sat Yoga can be described as the alchemical practice of transforming all limited perspectives into infinite and miraculous wonders. The 5S is an organizational method pioneered by Toyota that aims for intelligent excellence. Integrating the principles of the 5S methodology into certain ashram workspaces helped us to explore and focus more attention on our living and working environments and system protocols (or lack thereof!). This process deepened our awareness of the invisible yet very present field of intelligence that surrounds and pervades all and is activating our potential to develop the siddhi (spiritual power) of seeing and valuing the integration of power, truth, and beauty.

The 5S Methodology and a Sat Yoga Translation

5S is an acronym for the following steps/practices:

1) Seiri (Sort): This step is the assessment process, the separation of the items we must keep from those we do not need. We must identify accurately which items are not currently used (or not often) as well as discover which if any items do not work or are otherwise obsolete. This can be a challenge for everyone (especially those who are involved in off-grid preparation as we are, and therefore must make a discerning effort to preserve those items that we do not use now but which will be useful under changed conditions). It is also a wonderful opportunity to practice detachment.

Sat Yoga translation: We must let go of the past, of the known, of the petty egoic fantasies and comforts, and save the truest and noblest understandings, feelings, and commitments, in order to discover the Power of the Supreme Real, so we can create the most beautiful world imaginable.

2) Seiton (Set to Order): In this step, we must formulate the most coherent organizing principle, then execute the appropriate display, putting items on the right shelves, attaching labels, and in general finding the best home for all useful items.

Sat Yoga translation: We must set our lives in order, making the body fit and healthy, keeping the mind focused on the Self, or at least on high-vibrational thoughts and sublime devotional feelings. In this way, the channels of love and wisdom will open and our souls will begin to blossom. The highest order will be revealed, in which the seemingly individual consciousness will naturally recognize its real nature as Absolute Transcosmic Presence.

3) Seiso (Shine): Clean, clean, clean! This step is very straightforward: create a cleanliness standard and cleaning schedule for all your workspaces.

Sat Yoga translation: Cleanliness of consciousness is necessary for God realization. Sat Yogis are able to achieve such purification because we have surrendered our minds to the infinite power of the radiant energy of the Supreme Presence that shines within. Our doors of perception will open, the windows of wisdom will clear up, and the vision of a heavenly world will become a present reality. Through sanitizing the mind and ridding it of egoic stains and blockages, we shall enjoy the unveiled miracle of an impeccable and immaculate Being.

4) Seiketsu (Standardize): Intelligent creative systems such as color-coding, labeling with quantity and date, and applying the “first-in/first-out” system (using oldest items first) are essential to making the workflow easier, smoother, and smarter.

Sat Yoga translation: Once the third eye opens, the task will be to keep it open, through choosing to live up to God’s standards. This will require the development of great will power, accurate discernment, and consistently skillful action. Habits of thought and behavior must be standardized to permit spontaneous real time responses to all challenges that may confront us in life. We must create a standard of constant remembrance of the Self, constant resonance with the blissful vibration of liberated Presence.

5) Shitsuke (Sustain): This step can be summarized as the discipline of creative meta-consistency. We practice to work hard with a soft approach, to be firm yet flexible, diligent yet playful, conservative yet innovative, in order to preserve and improve the accomplished orderliness. One of the ways this can be achieved is by scheduling regular audits of the status of the work environment.

Sat Yoga translation: An effective spiritual path requires the transcendence of rules and rigidity in order to dance lightly and gracefully with the higher order of divine law (dharma) and retain the essential purity (shuddhi) of our expanding consciousness while living in blissful love of the appearance of every moment, every event, every being, all directly perceived as manifestations of the One Self. For this to become permanent, the conflictive egoic fragments must have been sorted out and removed, and the blissful vibrational frequency of the Center, the Zero Point of Absolute Presence, must be attuned to and locked in.

Wu Wei - The Effortless Flow of the 5S Process

We started diving into the deep waters of 5S by organizing the most chaotic, neglected, and disorganized area of our communal space: Varalaya (“Treasure House”), the maintenance bodega (storage room). After the successful completion of the organizing of the bodega, we focused our efforts on Sara Shala (the place of essential activities), which is our community food processing station, the place where we store our food security reserves, and which is also the home of our flower arranging station, where decorative floral displays are prepared for the delight of our retreatants. The results for both projects were an astonishing example of a transformational process buoyed by teamwork, strategic vision, and loving care.

Following is a step-by-step description of the 5S project in both Varalaya and Sara Shala:

1) Seiri (Sort): We began by emptying everything (yes, everything!) from the bodega as well as from the old food processing station and moving all items to the assigned “yellow tag area” for sorting. The red-tagged items were moved to a “red tag area” where they would be sorted into those items to be gifted, re-purposed, donated, recycled, or discarded. By saying ha ji (a blissful YES!) to this initial step, we could easily discern what was worth keeping and what could be removed.

The first step is "Seiri," emptying out the old to make room for the new.

2) Sieton (Set to Order): The next step was ordering the items by priority and use, finding the best possible home for each item (a drawer or cabinet for example). All items which were in good condition and which we will actually use within a one-year period were labeled and the items used less than once a year were moved to a long-term storage area. Labeling was a great opportunity to be creative and challenge the superego’s limited beliefs by dreaming up innovative solutions.

In this case, we kept 70% of the items being stored. Before returning those items to their home, we painted the wooden walls and metal shelves of the storage area (using paint we had on hand). In addition to sealing the wood, this made the space cleaner, more uniform, and aesthetically pleasing.

3) Seiso (Shine): When the storage room and workshop areas were completely empty, we did a major deep clean including a thorough vacuuming! Sanitization, ventilation, and illumination are key components to this 5S phase, so we established and posted printed protocols for the cleaning standards and schedule and we installed new electrical outlets in both spaces.

4) Seiketsu (Standardize): This step is one of the most challenging. The objective is to create standards and references for quantities, sizes, colors, patterns, positions, etc., which delineate the expectations for the users of the space and its contents.

For example, we used “visual standards” in the form of photos to show exactly how the new space should be maintained and cared for. We also included minimum and maximum quantities when labeling consumable products such as nails, sandpaper, and fuel in the bodega, and olive oil, beans and other food processing items in that area. Another example of standardization was to print and post specific guidelines for optimal workspace flow: a sign-in/out sheet for equipment, a “Please remove your shoes before entering” sign, etc.

5) Shitsuke (Sustain): This is where the rubber meets the road! In this last phase of the process, one will directly experience which systems work well and which may require corrective measures and follow-up.

5S Audit Evaluation Sheet for the brand new Food Processing station.

Scheduling periodic audits performed by a third party is crucial to keeping the flame of order and shaucha (hygiene) alive. The auditing process should continue indefinitely although one can extend the periods between each inspection. The better the work areas are maintained, the less often audits are needed.

Another vital learning of this practice is to always include the leaders of our Ashram in the 5S process. This is achieved by sending ongoing reports and photos, sharing audit results, prioritizing new areas for 5S and always making sure that the interest and direction for improving seva conditions come from the collective higher intelligence, not from an individual ego.

The Joys of Completing the 5S Cycle

For now, we have implemented the 5S process in two very different areas of our community and the results have been outstanding. It has also been a priceless creative process of growth, improvement, experimentation, and detachment from the old to allow the new and unknown to manifest.

Carlos Hidalgo (from Asesorías Preventivas del Sur) our Occupational Health & 5S consultant (far left) with our Ashram Maintenance team (from left to right: Satya Dass, Rolando, Geiner and Michael) having "graduated" from the first phase of our maintenance bodega 5S training.

Onward to 7S…

When Shunyamurti read this report, he added that to apply the horizontal 5S system to the vertical project of the liberation of consciousness from illusion, we must convert it to a 7S system (naturally). He also said that the 5S system could only be created because Toyota managers knew what business they were in. So before we can engage in a vertical system of reordering consciousness, we must know our purpose, our vision, our specific aim, and our appropriate tools. Otherwise we will not be able to formulate a coherent organizing principle.

Once we have determined that our purpose in living is to attain the highest level of intelligence, bliss, and empowerment as soon as possible, then we can easily sort through which thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors to throw out and which to cultivate. We can then set to order our disciplined approach to meditation, healthy lifestyle, and the deep joyous silence of Self-realization. This will make us shine with the supernal light of the Absolute, which transforms our perception of reality. Once this is standardized as consistent centering in the Sacred Heart, the energy field we create will bring about a new set of miraculous events that would previously have seemed impossible. To sustain our salvation from maya, all traces of the ego complex must be extinguished.

The sixth S, according to Shunyamurti, is sabotage protection. We must be on guard to prevent any regressive tendencies from emerging, or negative affects or self-attacking thoughts or defiling impulses from arising. This requires subtle recognition of subconscious phantasies of dissociated ego fragments, superego commands to deny your genius, or the censoring of important information, whether from dreams, signs in the waking dream, or the inner voice of the Sat Guru.

The seventh S is Supreme Solitude. This means extraction from the emptiness of the illusory world and its vain and deceptive temptations and total absorption into the Blissful Emptiness that is the Solitude in which there is no other, but only the fullness and perfection of the One All-Encompassing Self.

We shall continue striving for infinite learning, both in the outer and inner realms, and look forward to the next adventure in this ego-shattering, mind-opening, heart-melting dance of the great alchemical dream.


Satya Dass

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