According to the Vedic philosophy there are three prime qualities or "Mahagunas" in nature - Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.
Sattva is the quality of light, tranquility, harmony and balance. It is the peace you feel when you are in nature; the purity and innocence when you look into the eyes of a toddler or an animal; that feeling of oneness you experience during a yoga asana when mind, body and spirit are aligned.
Rajas is movement and activity, it has the seed of disturbance, addiction and dissatisfaction in it. Rajas is present in excess physical activity, loud/jarring music or scrolling on the internet.
Tamas is inertia and darkness. It creates attachment, lethargy and dullness. Watching television for long hours, eating foods like crisps that are devoid of Prana (life-force), the lethargy after a long night of drinking alcohol are all examples of Tamas.
Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are present all around us and within us.
We all need all three qualities in life, for eg. Tamas is present when we sleep. Rajas provides the movement we need to achieve our goals or go about our daily life. The problem arises when we have an excess of either of them. Why?
Because they cause an imbalance at the level of the mind. Too much Rajas (excess movement) causes mental unrest, anxiety and the inability to stop or slow down. It makes us want to go faster, to achieve more without giving us the peace and satisfaction we truly desire.
Excess of Tamas leads to lethargy and dullness causing depression and decay. We get stuck in life, unable to move forward or make decisions.
An excess of Rajas always end up in Tamas (think about excessive physical activity causing exhaustion/burn-out or excess mental stimulation leading to dissatisfaction and eventually depression). Rajas and Tamas are the energies that our dominant in our world today which makes us even more susceptible to them.
It is therefore even more important to cultivate "Sattva" in every aspect of life in order to feel at peace and be fulfilled. Here are my top tips to do so
1) Eat Sattvic food.
According to Ayurveda, food is one of the pillars of health. The food you eat not only determines the quality of your body tissues but also the state of your mind. And just like everything else in nature, the different food items are also dominated by one of the three Mahagunas. So if you primarily consume rajasic and tamasic food, you will get the corresponding qualities in your life. Let's take a quick look at some of the rajasic and tamasic items
Rajasic food: Garlic, chillies, fermented foods, tomatoes, bell peppers, aubergine, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol
Tamasic food: Meat, eggs, onions, mushrooms, refined sugar, processed food, leftovers, etc.
How many of the above listed items do you consume on a daily basis? Is your mind already protesting at the thought of giving them up? I wouldn't be surprised.
Rajasic and Tamasic items have an addictive quality to them and cause a major imbalance in the body and mind (Read more about it here).
Choosing sattvic foods will improve your overall health immensely. And don't worry, once you take a look at the sattvic food list below, you will realise that you have plenty of options! :)
2) Spend time in nature:
Have you ever wondered why nature soothes you so? Why you feel so calm and at peace there? That's because Sattva is the dominant quality in nature. Man has not commercialised or vandalised the space and the energies are pure and harmonious. So the next time you are in nature - switch of your phone, engage with all your senses and soak up the Prana.
Meditation allows you to transcend the mind, to get in touch with your higher self, your soul which in it's essence is pure sattva. If you are having difficulty with formless meditation, try mantra meditation (chanting) or candle-flame meditation (Gazing at a candle-flame). The important thing is to be still - yes, there are forms of active meditation but one of the things we struggle with most is to stay still and do nothing. It's not your body, your body has no issues with it - It's the mind that has a problem with it,Train your mind to be still - start with a few minutes if required and then slowly extend.
4) Choose moderation, avoid extremes:
Yoga and Ayurveda in general recommend the path of moderation. Oscillating between the extremes of Rajas and Tamas (excess mental stimulation -> depression or excess physical activity -> exhaustion) just causes suffering and keeps us trapped in a vicious cycle of pain.
So for example avoid extreme sports and instead choose sattvic activities like walking in nature, cycling, hiking or Yoga.
Instead of watching violent disturbing movies, choose something gentler.
Yoga and Ayurveda teach us the principle of cause and effect. Your actions determine the results you get, you get to choose how (well) you feel in life. Choose well.
Fruits - apples, apricots, berries, dates (fresh), dragonfruit, feijjoa, figs, grapefruit, grapes with seeds, longons, lychee, kiwifruit, mangoes, melons, nectarine, oranges, peaches, pears, persimmon, pineapple, plums, pomegranates, prunes, starfruit, tangerines (sweet), raisins
Legumes: Adzuki beans, black beans, black-eyes beans, brown lentils, green lentils, green mung beans, split mung beans, split pigeon peas (toor dal), fresh green peas, fresh beans, white beans
Nuts - almonds, brazil nuts, cashew nuts, chestnuts, coconut, filberts, gingko, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, pistachio, sesame seeds, tiger nuts
Oils - almond oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, ghee, macadamia nut oil, mustard seed oil, sesame oil, olive oil
Sweeteners: Honey, maple syrup, jaggery
Other - raw milk, watercress, fresh wasabi, rose petals, lavender flowers, fresh almond milk, fresh rice milk, fresh coconut water
Spices - anise, basil, black pepper, brown mustard seeds, cardamom, carob, cilantro, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, dill, fennel, ginger, mint, lemon grass, sorrel, turmeric, vanilla bean
Vegetables - artichokes, asparagus, bamboo shoots, beets, bitter gourd, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, burdock, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, corn, courgette (zucchini), cucumbers, daikon, fennel bulb, flowers (edible), green beans, dark leafy greens, jerusalem artichoke, kohlrabi, lotus root, okra, parsnips, snow peas, spinach, summer squash, sweet potatoes, turnips (sweet), yacon, yams
Fruits - dates (dried), bottled juices, guava, lime, lemon, passion fruit, papaya, soursop
Legumes - kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans, red lentils
Nuts and seeds - hemp seeds, peanuts, sprouts, sunflower seeds
Oils - avocado oil, hemp oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil
Other - fresh cheeses, avocado, cottage cheese, egg, all fermented foods, ice cream, miso, molasses, sucanat, olives, salt, vinegar, yogurt, commercial almond, hemp or rice milk, all caffeine (including cacao, chocolate, coffee, caffeinated teas, decaf tea and coffee)
Spices - asafoetida/hing, cayenne, chili pepper, fenugreek, garlic, excess of any spice
Vegetables - eggplant, onions, capsicum (bell peppers), leeks, hot peppers (chilis), radishes, sea vegetables, sprouts, tomatoes
Whole grains - Commercial rolled oats, parboiled grains
Fruits - all over-ripe fruits, bananas
Grains - all exposed to light or more than one year old, extensively refined grains, dried and packaged pasta
Legumes - all canned, older than 2 years, garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
Nuts and Seeds - all old or exposed to light, chia seeds
Oils - all older than 1 year or rancid, canola oil, vegetable oil, rapeseed oil, safflower oil
Other - alcohol, all animal flesh (beef, chicken, fish, fowl, goat, lamb, pork, rabbit, shellfish, turkey, venison), artificial sweeteners, barbecued or blackened foods, food with preservatives or synthetic ingredients, deep fried foods, frozen foods, leftovers, margarine, condiments, all refined sugar, old tea bags, smoked food, microwaved food
Spices - all old or stored in the light
Vegetables - all mushrooms, pumpkin, winter squash, potatoes
Source: Hale Pule