There are many spiritual & scientific practices that seek to define & explain this mysterious world we live in. In the healing & medicine practices of Yoga & Ayurveda, it is said the Gunas are the fundamental forces that create the universe.
The 3 Gunas (Tamas, Rajas & Sattva) are the primary qualities of nature that exist in varying concentrations & strengths in all things. Since the Gunas are found in all things they are within you too, and can be seen & experienced in your actions, thoughts & mind.
I recently created a page about the Gunas in my Hero’s Journey Art Journal (see video link below). It 's been a powerful process for me to reconnect with this teaching and I would like to share some of it with you. May this blog inspire awareness around these forces of nature and how they may be present in your life.
Philosophers say life exists for the purpose of acquiring experience & knowing the Self. The Gunas are meant to facilitate this spiritual endeavor. They reveal, conceal & stir things up, all for the purpose of drawing us closer to deeper knowing & enlightenment.
Each Guna Has Its Own Characteristics
This quality of Being constitutes solidity. It is heavy and dense, and is veiling & obstructing. Tamas holds things in specific & limited forms, thereby it has an immobilizing effect. Tamas has the quality of inertia, which can lead to inaction when action is required.
Each of us has experienced the binding power of Tamas, especially over the past several years through the pandemic. The binding power of Tamas can be experienced as lethargy, procrastination and excessive sleep.
This quality of Being constitutes activity. It is full of passion & is born out of desire. Rajas has the quality of change & activity, and its turbulence often brings about a dis-equilibrium that upsets an existing balance. Rajas often prompts change simply for the sake of change.
Rajas brings about happiness by coupling the senses with their objects, which can lead to attachment & addiction to sensory pleasures (something I experience with cake & potato chips).
This quality of Being constitutes purity. It is full of intelligence, virtue and harmony. Sattva is illuminating, allowing the light of awareness to reveal the operations of the mind & nature. Sattva is not enlightenment but it unveils truth, which supports expanded consciousness.
Sattva promotes life, energy, health and contentment. It does not hold Rajas and Tamas in contempt, for it understands their place in cosmic harmony
The Gunas act as guides that can indicate where you are and where you are inspired to be. We each have all 3 qualities within our being & they morph and change over time. Connecting into this teaching is a great way to support the evolution & expansion of your mind & cultivate your Crown Chakra.
Dr, David Frawley has a great book called "Ayurveda and the Mind" that explains the Gunas in more detail. In his book he presents ways to move from an ignorant and physically oriented life (Tamas), to one of vitality & self expression (Rajas), and finally to one of peace & enlightenment (Sattva). I recommend his book if you would like to explore the nature of the mind in more detail.
One of the tools I learned in my Yoga Teacher training many years ago was the practice of Pratipaksha Bhavana. In Sanskrit this translates into “cultivating the opposite”. This is a powerful tool to use when working with the Gunas.
If you find you are in a Tamasic state, cultivating the opposite action can help break up that stagnation. Bringing in the opposite and doing something stimulating, energizing or activating can help you move energy and release depression & heaviness from your being.
The opposite is also true. If you find that you are in an overly Rajasic state, cultivating the opposite can help. Finding a way to bring stillness & quiet into your present moment can help calm over-agitation & excessive doing. That may be gentle gardening, reading, or slowly walking around the block. These are all tools you can use to calm over-active Rajas energy.
In this cultivation of the opposite, you can find entry points into Sattvic being, which is a balance point between the two, which can support you with experiencing more peace & joy in your life. It sounds simple, but in practice it can be rather challenging as many of us already know.
You can cultivate the practice of Pratipaksha Bhavana in your mind as well. If you are having negative or constrictive thoughts about yourself or others, you can immediately cultivate the opposite thought to bring a more balanced energy alive in you. Sometimes it may feel like “fake it till you make it”, but cultivating positive thoughts, even when they are challenging to form, can retrain your mind to be in a more Sattvic state, which has expansive & healing effects in your life.
To bring conclusion to this blog, here are some journaling exercises for you to explore the Gunas in your life along with some of my personal shares around these themes. May these contemplations help you discover ways to break up stagnation, ease agitation and create more peace in your life.
1. Journal about an area of your life where you are Tamas Rather than focusing on how this aspect of Tamas hinders you, journal about how you can break up the Tames and generate more Rajas in your life.
- One of the areas I am Tamas is in physical movement. I sit a lot for work and the art I create is done sitting down. Getting up and walking around the block is something I try to do every evening to bring in Ragas energy. Once I get started... usually one block turns into many and I have Sattvic moments of peace in the process of walking.
2. Journal about an area of your life where you are Rajas
Rather then focus on what the shift from Tamas to Rajas frees you from, explore what this shift opens you up to. This is a powerful change of perspective that lays the foundation for more Sattva energy.
- One of the ways I experience a lot of Rajas energy is through my over-consumption of social media, especially TicTok. I can get sucked into that app and spend hours on it a day! To bring healing energy into this over-agitation, I recently set app limits on my phone so I can only use them a few minutes a day. My prayer is that by limiting my use of this technology, my mental agitation will subside a bit and more Sattvic energy will come alive in my life as I engage in other activities instead.
3. Journal about an area of your life where you are Sattva
How can you perfect this quality in your life?
- The times in my life when I feel the most Sattva energy, especially in my mind, is when I am creating art & when I am camping in nature away from people. To perfect this quality in my life, it looks like I need to make more art & get out camping more !!!