How much do the qualities in your life: your diet, your activities, your thoughts, affect who you are? How can you be aware of their impact, and more importantly, make changes to enhance the qualities you prefer?
The three gunas, or qualities, known in Ayurveda are sattva, rajas, and tamas. The interplay of these qualities constantly unfolds in nature, in the day, our bodies and minds. In theory, the qualities of what we choose to interact with and be a part of in our lives have an influence in the qualities expressed as who we are.
Tamas, the densest of the three qualities, is experienced as heaviness, confusion, inertia, and ignorance. We experience tamas when we’re asleep, have a cold or illness, take prescription medicines, drink alcohol, eat excess meat, artificial foods, and over- eat in general. Tamas is necessary in life to rest, rebuild, and breakdown the old. It can be seen in the fall when old leaves fall from the tree, decompose, and recycle into the earth to replenish the soil. Or, after extending a copious amount of energy, we feel tired, heavy, and a sense of dullness in our bodies to take it slow, repair our tissues, and rebuild the energy to extend into the next endeavor.
From tamas we move into rajas, the energy of movement, activity, ambition and transformation. Rajas is part of achieving our goals, being physically active, and also experiencing restlessness, anxiety, or anger. Rajas brings us out of a tamasitic state, but too much can keep us constantly seeking and desiring more. We need rajas to break away from the heaviness and inertia of tamas, yet keep a sensitive awareness to prevent excess, ungrounded energy that can result in an inability to relax into the present moment, create irritability, stress, anger, worry, insomnia, and more. You probably feel excess rajas if you have too much coffee or feel extra competitive about a sporting event. Some is healthy in life, but just like everything, balance is key.
Sattva, the third guna in the trinity of qualities, is considered to be our highest, best, and natural state of being. It is experienced as creativity, serenity, bliss, equanimity, calmness, and love. Watching the sunset, fully expressing yourself through your favorite creative outlet, connecting with an animal, being in the company of a baby or elder, or simply falling deeply into the present moment are all ways in which you have experienced the beauty of satva.
Lightness, clarity, inspiration, contentment and joy can all be experienced more in our selves through our lifestyle practices- diet, sleep, exercise, community, relationships, surroundings, and connection to nature. Ayurveda aspires to bring each individual into a more satvic experience, just like all the nuns, monks, buddhas and yoginis in the world!
To increase the sattvic qualities in yourself, you simply increase the interaction you have with sattvic food, environments, people, outlooks, etc. Spending time in nature and less time connected to your electronic gadgets, attuning to the natural rhythm of the day (sleeping when it gets dark and waking up with the sun), reducing your consumption of mass media, cultivating positive relationships with sattvic people especially spiritual teachers, practicing selfless acts of service, and connecting to your quiet, inner self all increases your sattvic nature.
As we become more aware of our ever changing and flowing states of being, we are better able to fine tune and enhance our chosen qualities. Each guna is an important part of existence, but residing excessively in a tamasic or rajastic state prevents our ultimate state of being from being expressed. Intention alone sets an incredible impact on our capabilities, while having the wisdom and awareness about our choices creates a profound path for self and collective evolution.
May we all support, inspire, enhance, share and expand in our sattvic selves and humanity.