Which Direction Are the Gunas Taking You?

woman looking at the map

Soon we will be saying goodbye to the old and ushering in the new. Its nearly 2022! To mark this occasion, I’d like to introduce you to some fundamental forces that inform us on whether we are moving forward in our life, running in place, or losing our way. 

In order to identify what is causing these tendencies and what we can do to improve our direction, let’s explore the three fundamental forces that Ayurveda calls the MahaGunas. The mahagunas are the 3 great qualities or gunas. These gunas energetically drive our world and the universe. 

What could be better than to get a clear understanding of what we are jumping into as we prepare for the new year ahead?

But to clearly understand the mahagunas, you need a little background information. I’m also releasing a podcast on this subject if you’d like to listen on Spotify or iTunes.

Once upon a time, everything began with pure consciousness & nature. The two components of the universe (according to Samkhya Philosophy – which is the one of the oldest philosophical theories of Yoga and Ayurveda).

Pure consciousness is the facilitator of the universe, it is the driving force in a unifying and indifferent way. It is the force that assists nature to form. 

Nature is the matter of the universe. It differentiates, transforms and exists of all material and energy. Nature functions through 3 conscious forces or primal qualities, and these are the great gunas or qualities of Illumination, Mobility & Restraint or, as I mentioned earlier, your tendency to move forward in life, run in place or lose your way.

These three qualities create the diversity in our world. The first, illumination or sattva is the quality of knowledge, clarity and purity. It can be defined as balance. The second quality is mobility, action and stimulus or intensiveness and is called rajas. The third quality is restraint, inactivity, heaviness or inertia and its Sanskrit name is tamas. 

It’s important to note that when we speak of the mahagunas, we are talking about the universe’s original nature. The forces behind not just ourselves and the living things that are on earth but of all the energetic qualities that exist in the universe. 

Sattva energy is the energy of knowledge. So, its energy generates the senses. Senses (hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch) are natural perceivers that require energy that is clear and pure for accurate perception.

When we consider Raja energy, it’s easy to visualize the development of the mind because it relies on and consists of the energy of action. In addition, the mind manages the motor organs (vocal cords, hands, feet, and our organs of elimination).

For Tamas, we need to look to the elements (space, air, fire, water and earth). The elements are built by the quality of substance or solidity. It is the proof of our existence. These inactive elements are affected by material elements. For example, Sound=vibration in space, touch=movement in air, vision=light provided by fire, taste=depends on moisture or water, smell=from particles of earth material.

So, you see why I had to go back in time, just a bit, to get to the heart of what inspires us, what makes us spin in place, and what restrains us. They are the original energies of sattva, rajas and tamas.

So, how do these three great qualities affect our direction in life?

The quality of Sattva is harmony and balance. It directs energy upwards, creating peace, happiness and contentment. It is positive, inspiring and motivating.

On the other hand, the quality of activity or intensity, called Rajas, can tip the scales of our inherent nature. It is an outward flow of energy that can make us strive for desires and power. 

With Tamas or the quality of inertia, obstruction and heaviness, you can guess that it may negatively affect our motivation. We just want to stay put. That is the downward movement of energy that can ground any innate nature. 

Although all of these forces, just like the elements, keep us balanced – because we will always need some amount of activity and inertia to function.

The three forces: illumination, mobility and restraint are intertwined to create our nature. However, it is only the rajas (agitation) and the tamas (dullness) that can create imbalance. More activity creates aggravation and more dullness creates stagnation.

Now back to reflecting on what your current direction may be. 

If you feel as though you’ve been running in place and getting nowhere

You’ve probably been influenced by too much rajasic energy. Maybe you’ve been attached to a particular path that isn’t serving you. So, you’ll need to release the incessant drive or fire by embracing the element of space and letting go more. 

Think of helping others by doing some selfless actions. When you put yourself in the shoes of others, you can see alternatives… other options… that may create some new pathways for yourself.

If you are feeling as though you are losing your way

Or, you have little determination or are settling for things, you probably have more tamas or that dull quality in your system. The primary way to combat that is to enhance your fire. And, a major way to kindle your internal fire is by eating the right foods at the right times.

You can also become more motivated by: 

  • Joining a group that you are interested in: getting encouragement from a set of peers or positive interactions with a good teacher will lift your spirits.
  • Eat more spices: eating more stimulating and warming foods by introducing spices will also move you toward a more positive direction. Exercise does the same thing.
  • One last, very “New Yearsy” task for combating the tamas guna, is to come up with a plan and set attainable goals to achieve it. Although I am not a resolution type of person, I do take advantage of the fresh, new year by reflecting on my path and forging a new direction with definite goals and scheduled tasks.

Only the sattvic quality is free of disease. Therefore, it is the energy of health and healing. 

Adding more clarity and peace only begets more happiness.

In general, there are sattvic diets, routines and mind care that can be fostered and developed to increase our sattvic energy.  And, of course, this is the primary road to living ayurvedically too. We will definitely be exploring more of the sattvic living as we progress on the Ayurvedic journey.

But, to start, I’d like to leave you with a few tips to initiate this new year. Some good ways to instill more of that sattvic quality into your life:

We can attain or maintain a sattvic quality by living in satvrtti. Satvritti is the action of experiencing or behaving in truth. Broken down sat =truth and vritti=behavior.

To live more sattvically, one should:

  • Become more mindful of your actions: think before you speak and reflect on your actions at the end of each day.
  • Calm your mind: allow yourself to be in the present moment, slow down and just be.  
  • Neutralize emotions such as anger or greed by thinking of others. Did that person really deserve your reaction? Can you put yourself in another’s shoes to see their perspective? Can you be happy with what you have?

Next time, I will help you to better understand the state of a healthy mind so that you can move forward into this new year with awareness, peace and greater compassion. 

Until then, cheers my friends! 💜🌱🕉

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

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