We hope everyone is truly enjoying summer. And thank you to everyone who responded to last month’s newsletter with personal stories and with support.
We had such a tremendous response to our ‘blurb’ last month on Depression, that we are going a little further down this road this month. It is our hope that it will provide yet another tool to keep some of us from sliding down that deep, dark well!
The Three Gunas
As a little bit of background, yoga views mood (bhavana in Sanskrit) - as states of mind that, for the purposes of practice and understanding the human mind, can be separated out into 3 categories. These are called the Three Gunas.
Let’s talk about Rajas first. We all know people who are in Rajas state of mind. Oh yes! In our culture, we have many, many people who are continually in this state of mind! This is a state in which excessive mental activity occurs. The body as well may indicate a Rajas state...fidgeting, erratic movement, pacing, etc. Rajas is characterized by motion and passion... sometimes out of narcissistic desires and attachments.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Tamas. Tamas is inertia – a state in which insufficient mental activity dominates. Tamas may exhibit as boredom, heaviness, lethargy. And we all know people who suffer from a Tamasic state of mind as well. These people may feel like they are mired in the depths of darkness.
In the centre – between Rajas and Tamas – we have Sattva – or equilibrium...this is the mind’s normal state in which it discriminates wisely.
The teachings of yoga tell us that when the mind is established in its original state of silence (Sattva), we are naturally drawn to make choices that bring about balance, health and happiness into our lives. When the mind is not in Sattva, our discrimination will be weakened by the chaos of too much energy or the dulling effects of too much Tamas. Neither Rajas nor Tamas are bad in and of themselves...Rajas is necessary for bringing things to fruition, and Tamas is necessary for bringing things to a conclusion. In fact, the perfect balance of the two brings about a state of Sattva. (1. Donna Farhi...Bringing Yoga to Life.)
Okay, you say. How does this understanding of the three states of nature, how does all this help us to elevate mood?
Physically: When Tamas – depression, inertia, heaviness are prominent, movement such as walking and dancing are most helpful. Being in nature, especially near moving water – river, waterfall – or the ocean is especially effective for Tamas. Even a cool shower... and dining lightly on fruits, veggies and grains. All this helps to dissipate lethargy.
Mentally: When Tamas dominates, there is a strategy called pratipaksha bhavanam, or shifting perspectives, that is most effective. When feeling depressed and down, consider the opposite. At times, these habitual negative patterns cut deep grooves into our minds...and they take persistence, patience and practice to root them out. Contemplate the qualities of vitality and optimism. Bring up in your mind a time when you were overjoyed, perhaps a time when you achieved a great accomplishment, or a time when you first found yourself in love! Giving the opposite mood more energy – and lessening the energy directed toward feeling down – will bring about a shift in perspective.
Wherever you direct your energy...the energy goes to that place. Here’s a little story to that end.
A man had saved his money his whole life in order to one day purchase the house of his dreams. He achieves this, and he and his little kitty cat move into the house. To his absolute horror he discovers that his new house is infested with rats! The man goes to the monk and asks what he should do. The monk replies simply, “Feed the kitty.”
Now what do you think the monk meant? (I love this! Little sticky note on bathroom mirror!)
If you give negativity all of your energy, for sure, you will continue to have the Black Crow on your shoulder for much of your life. You have the power to re-direct your mind. Do not allow the mind to drive you through your life. YOU are the one in charge!