Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sattva, Rajas, Tamas - and You!

June 1, 2014

In Ayurveda we talk a lot about the tridosha (Three Humours) - the primary building-block substances of the physical universe: dense liquid or solid matter (kapha), heat and light (pitta), and breath/air and space (vata). We often discuss the doshas in terms of our physical bodies, our earth-bound plane of existence: basically, our anatomical and physiological components. In addition, we also use the triguna (Three Attributes) to describe the more subtle energies of the mental body, such as our individual temperaments and moral dispositions, as well as our psychological tendencies and behavioral patterns. The three gunas, or attributes that govern the astral (mental) plane, are sattva, tamas, and rajas.

In Yoga we often refer to the idea of achieving sattva - balance or harmony, related also to the word 'sat' which means "truth" in Sanskrit. This refers to a harmonious state of calm, quiet stillness in the mind; when we follow a sattvic way of life our thoughts, emotions, and then actions become clear and pure. Without sattva we could not distinguish or understand anything; and we could not have sattva without rajas and tamas, the two other gunas or mental states. Rajas is movement; kinetic energy and activity; rajas also means disturbance, but without it we couldn't move, we would just be stuck where we are. Tamas is the state of inertia, dullness and heaviness; tamas means darkness, but without it we would have no stability, nothing to keep us grounded. Each of us possesses all three of these mental qualities, to different extents. It's important to examine the mind's thoughts, habits, and tendencies to better understand the balance of the three gunas that comprise your own individual mental constitution, and to help ensure that the mind is operating at its most optimum state.

We can draw some parallels between the triguna and the tridosha, keeping in mind that they refer to different planes of the self: tamas most closely mirrors consistent kapha with its earthy, solid, slow qualities; rajas reflects the dynamism of vata's mobile, erratic tendencies. The sattvic state is most often paralleled with the clarity and focus of a balanced pitta dosha.

Kapha and Vata types need not despair, however -- this does not mean that only Pitta types can achieve a sattvic mental nature. Anyone can lead a sattvic life and have a harmonious mind and a balanced body; the only differences would be how we achieve this, and how sattva manifests in your unique constitutional make-up. For example, a perfectly balanced Vata person would be energetic, flexible and adaptable, and would have strong healing energy as well as an ability to initiate positive change and movement. A sattvic Kapha mind would be peaceful, content, compassionate, and stable, with a deep ability to be patient, loyal, loving, nurturing, and supportive. And a sattvic-yet-fiery (pitta) mental nature would have intelligence, clear perception, a courageous independence and innate tendency for being a good leader, as well as warmth, friendliness, and a general sense of good will.

We can achieve our own higher level of mental functioning by following certain "remedial measures" that will help us balance an excess of rajas or tamas in the mind. There are unique recommendations for each doshic type but in general, replacing negative habits with positive ones - for example, meditation, mantra, self-inquiry, and devotional practices - can help us achieve a more sattvic state of being. Ayurvedic nutritional guidelines also characterize foods according to whether they have a sattvic, rajasic, or tamasic effect on the body, so we can also adapt our diet to include more sattvic items to help us stay in balance, and to take less of other foods that cause excess agitation or lethargy in the system.

(You can join me later this month for a discussion on Sattvic Foods at the next "move ~ learn ~ eat" Holistic Dinner Party! Email kratuhealth @ gmail for details <3 )

Does your mind feel harmonious, disturbed, or darkened? Perhaps these states rotate and vary, maybe one or even two tend to dominate. When you feel your mood shift, take a moment to connect with the current of energy that runs through your mind, and your body. Notice whether you feel agitated or overly active, whether you feel lazy or low, or whether you feel clear-headed and in harmony with your surroundings. Building awareness of the qualities of your mental nature can go a long way toward understanding sources of imbalance or dis-ease in our physical body (for example, even modern medicine has finally accepted that mental and emotional stress can have an adverse effect on our physical health), and can also help illuminate the obstacles and patterns found in our more subtle mind-body. And incorporating practices into our life that help us connect with our inner essence - activities that help us tune in to our own clarity, truth, and balance - can help increase the sattvic energy in our being. So take time each day to sit in meditation or self-examination, engage in spiritual rituals, chant mantras and prayers, or any practice that promotes purity, love, compassion, and harmony with the self and the universe. Enjoy the balance that comes from a daily commitment to sattva!

 As always, please contact me with any questions or feedback. You can also post a Comment below!

Thanks for reading,

Katie :)


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