Do you find yourself caught in an endless cycle of tired and wired? Ayurveda provides a special language for understanding the primal forces of Nature and shows us how to work with them. These primal forces are called gunas in Sanskrit and mean "what binds" because when wrongly understood they keep us in bondage to the external world.
I will briefly touch on these three forces and also give a few tips on how we can increase our capacity to self-soothe and self-regulate as we move from lower energies into a more elevated existence. In no particular order, the three gunas are; Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva. Everything in the Universe consists of some combination of the three gunas.
Tamas: inertia, darkness, dullness, a heavy, obstructing veil. It possesses a downward motion that drags us down into decay, ignorance, and ultimately death. It also causes emotional attachment, clinging, and stagnation.
Rajas: action, motion, stimulation, turbulence. It is always seeking a goal or an ends that gives it power. "The emotional fluctuations of attraction and repulsion, fear and desire, and love and hate" (www.yogaofrecovery.com)
Sattva: serenity, virtue, intelligence, harmony, balance, stability. It possesses an inward and upward motion and brings about the awakening of the soul. It imparts dharmic virtues of faith, honesty, self-control, modesty, and truthfulness.
So, what does all of this mean for me? Imagine that the goal is to move from tamas and rajas into sattva. When reading these descriptions, you may find that you relate to these forces on a personal level depending on where you are in life. For those of us who have been or are currently in the "down and out" of tamas, we deeply understand what it feels like to be depressed and isolated while also feeling the heaviness of shame, guilt, secrets, and lies. The majority of people in our culture fall into the rajas category with feelings of stress, tension, struggle, anxiety, and irritation. And most of us vacillate between the two. While many of us may experience moments of clarity, balance, and deep serenity, very few are able to maintain this state so it's helpful to look to the teachings of Ayurveda to help us better understand how to move inward and upward instead of outward and downward.
How do I from tamas to rajas and rajas to sattva? We need rajas to break up tamas. When we are in the dark, we need someone with a flashlight to come help us out. This is why community gatherings with uplifting people are so important in recovery centers and for people in rehabilitation from anxiety, depression, PTSD, mental break down, and the like. When we are in the active state of rajas, we can cultivate more conscious activities to help bring us to sattva. This is why it's important to establish a daily meditation and yoga practice to show us the way to inner silence, peace, balance, and harmony. We are only perpetuating the cycle of rajas and tamas when we reach outside of ourselves for a quick fix to soothe or regulate. A self-healing alternative to acting out and reaching out when we're tired is to simple REST, slow down, choose warm foods and drinks that bring nourishment instead of substances that contain processed sugar, caffeine, alcohol, etc.
What are some foods and practices that can help me?
TAMASIC FOODS AND PRACTICES: meat, alcohol, tobacco, onions, garlic, fermented foods, such as vinegar, and stale left over food, contaminated or overripe substances. Also, foods that are prepared unconsciously or while the preparer is angry or in a negative mood are considered Tamasic. Spending too much time indoors, surrounding yourself with negative company, and overeating are considered tamasic practices.
RAJASIC FOODS AND PRACTICES: hot substances, such as sharp spices or strong herbs, stimulants, like coffee and tea, meat of animals and fish, eggs, salt and chocolate. Too much rajasic food will over stimulate the body and excite strong emotional qualities and passions, making the mind restless and uncontrollable. Spending too much time working and competing, surrounding yourself with judgmental and angry company, and eating while in a hurry or on the go are considered rajasic practices.
SATTVIC FOODS AND PRACTICES: sprouted whole grains, fresh fruit, land and sea vegetables, pure fruit juices, nut and seed milk and cheese, legumes, nuts, seeds, sprouted seeds, honey, and herb teas. Sattvic foods are those foods which do not agitate your stomach at all. Spending time in prayer, meditation, self-inquiry, surrounding yourself with noble, honest, and modest people, and eating in a peaceful environment are considered sattvic practices.
It is helpful to note that what might be sattvic at one point on your journey can become rajasic or tamasic as you evolve and begin to find more subtle ways of feeling and healing. I encourage you to begin today. Reach out for help if you are in a predominantly tamasic state, slow down, practice yoga and/or meditation if you are in a predominantly rajasic state and please be gentle and loving with yourself and others. Life is a journey and the path to wholeness and balance isn't a straight road. Know that you are loved and supported EXACTLY as you are and that, with intention and practice, you will realize your fullest potential!
If you would like to be informed about upcoming Ayurveda workshops, free online videos, or to schedule a private consultation, please contact Danielle