02 Dec 2022
How to be happy, better, wiser
By Ashton Graham
In Indian science, Indian philosophy, Yoga Sutra-s, and the Bhagavad Gita the gunas are considered important elements or framework. A guna can be translated as quality, peculiarity, attribute, property and as a thread that is used to bind us and that is present in all things and in all beings in the world.
The three gunas according to this world view are described here.
• Sattva: the quality of balance, harmony, goodness, purity, universalizing, holistic, constructive, creative, building, positive attitude, luminous, serenity, being-ness, peaceful, virtuous. It can be described as clear-headed and pure. You view the world with a developed intuition and heightened awareness.
• Rajas: the quality of passion, activity, turbulence, movement, sometimes self-centeredness, egoistic, individualizing, driven, moving, dynamic. Sometimes this guna is present in our fast-paced goal-orientated society, wanting more, often veiled in anger and frustration experienced by the ego. If you identify with this guna consider reducing your intake of foods such as fried and/or spicy foods, stale leftovers, charred meat. It is important to become aware if you are over stimulated or have a restless mind or body.
• Tamas: the quality of imbalance, dullness, darkness disorder, chaos, anxiety, impurity, destructiveness, delusion, negativism, dullness or inactivity, apathy, inertia, lethargy, violence, viciousness, ignorance. A muddled perception. Confusion within the mind through ignorance and fear means that we can experience laziness and the inability to focus. The Tamasic lifestyle feels somewhat paralyzed, numb, unable to set things in motion. Heavy meats, cheese, and processed foods increase tamas, as do too much sleep and lack of exercise.
In Indian philosophy, these gunas are not present in us in an either/or fashion but rather each of us has all three but in different proportions. No one is purely sattvic or purely rajasic or purely tamasic. We are a complex interplay of all three with each guna present in varying degrees.
As humans we have the unique ability to alter consciously the levels of the gunas in our minds, bodies and actions. The gunas cannot be separated or removed but can be consciously acted upon to increase or decrease. A guna can be increased or decreased through the interaction and influence of external objects, lifestyle practices and thoughts.
To me embracing the gunas make a lot of sense. Would you rather live in balance with harmony and goodness than with chaos or self-centeredness? Striving for sattva and moving away from tamas and rajas will help you achieve and maintain balance in your life.
Our lives need to be framed to move towards sattva. Nicolai Bachman, a teacher of Sanskrit, Ayurveda, yoga philosophy and Vedic Chanting suggests these easy ways to increase sattva:
• Acts of kindness
• Unconditional love, not judging anyone, treating everyone the same with kindness
• Education, gaining more awareness to make better decisions
• Humility, volunteering to serve others, doing something to serve others who are less fortunate; one way to cultivate humility and sincerity
Here are a few foods and drinks suggested by Bachman to increase sattva.
• Warm, mildly spiced milk
• Raw honey and raw sugar
• Light, mild fruits and vegetables
• Kichadi (Indian comfort food of rice and lentils)
• Pure water
• Soaked and peeled almonds
• Whole grains
In your daily life consider cultivating sattva with a mindfulness to get the new year going with a positive mindset, and when you are thrown a curve, find your own reset button and start anew.
Ashton Graham is an educator, photographer, cowgirl and yoga instructor. ashtoncannon.com