The body has its own memory. Today, there is research going on in this direction. To put it in a simplified way – let us say your father, when he was a child, liked to play with round objects, and he developed a certain level of involvement with them. As his child not knowing why you will tend to choose similar things. It is proven that these repetitions happen. This is simply because you carry a certain genetic material.
There is something called runanubandha, which is a certain kind of physical memory that you carry within you. Runanubandha cannot be equated with the genetic factors that are being transmitted from parent to child. It is a physical memory of where you came from – not necessarily in terms of color of your skin, shape of your nose, how you are built, and so on. It is just that the body remembers any kind of intimacy – not only with another physical body, but with any physical substance. Even if you as much as hold someone’s hand, you develop runanubandha. This is why in India; people greet you with folded hands. They do not want to acquire runanubandha. The same applies for passing on certain substances, like salt, sesame seeds, or soil – people never take them from somebody else’s hands, to avoid developing runanubandha. Since this culture is essentially oriented towards liberation, this awareness and these sensitivities are there not to build bondage in life, but to keep it only to the extent that is absolutely necessary.
You pick up runanubandha in many ways, but sexual relationships have maximum impact in terms of the amount of memory that they leave, compared to any other kind of touch, or any substance you come in touch with. This is not a question of guilt or ridding yourself of guilt. Guilt is a social phenomenon. What you feel guilty about essentially depends upon what people around you have told you, is right and wrong in whatever society you live. If you feel guilty about something in one society, you would not feel guilty about it in another society. This is not about social conditioning – we are only looking at the existential aspects of life.
There are many processes to wash off the runanubandha. There are certain festivals like Pongal or Bhogi that are about clearing up your mental baggage, your emotional baggage, and your runanubandha. At temples such as Linga Bhairavi, there is a ritual ‘fire wash’, which you can make use of, if a regular shower is not sufficient to get you clean. This is a way of burning physical memories that you have picked up – not necessarily because of relationships. Just by coming in touch with people, situations, atmospheres, so many things, the body picks up memory.
There is fire wash, and of course, water wash every day. At the time in my life when I was into a lot of sadhana, I would have somewhere between five and seven showers a day, because your system becomes so sensitive. For example, you sit on a particular cushion, and you are conscious what this cushion is doing to you, so you want to wash it off by at least letting water run over your body. I did not calculate that I must take a shower five or seven times a day – I showered whenever I felt like. Most yogis have bath at least twice a day, at the minimum. Usually, it is a dip in the river – you dip in flowing water so that you are washed clean.
During certain seasons, like the shift of the Sun from the southern hemisphere to northern hemisphere, and again, from north to south, the winds are strong on the Indian subcontinent. One simple process is to go and stand in the wind so that you get a proper air wash. It will do wonders to you. Try this – when there is a strong breeze, just wear something loose and simply stand there for half an hour, with your eyes closed, being conscious of it. Turn both ways, so that the breeze flows over you from front and back. You will feel so much lighter and better.