Inner World of the Mind
Have you ever thought how the physical body and mind can be interconnected? I didn’t realize this crucial interconnection until medical school, when I witnessed the change within myself. My affinity with Ayurveda goes back to my childhood, however the immersion in this vast knowledge didn’t occur until I questioned my own lifestyle and choices at that time. This journey to heal from within made me delve into Ayurveda. Ayurveda, the ancient healing system of India, allows one to understand the root cause of the disease from various perspectives. Through experience Ayurveda has shown me how an individual’s lifestyle and diet can influence one’s current state of mind.
Ayurveda shows us there are three gunas ( energies) of the mind: sattva, rajas, tamas. These are energies that are transforming daily according to our intake from our five senses, emotions, thoughts, and most importantly our diet. These gunas are also present within the universe in equilibrium. By understanding the mind-body connection we can see it is difficult to separate these two entities. So, the question becomes how can we use this understanding to our best capability?
Sattva represents the calm, peaceful energy. There is devotion, love, and happiness within.
Balanced sattva brings upon contentment and purity.
Rajas is the active, innovative, decisive energy within us. Think of the last time you had to make a crucial decision or had to complete a project before a deadline.
Tamas is the dull, lazy nature within us. Unbalanced takes us toward lack of motivation, sadness, and darkness. Overall it is that foggy nature within the mind. Remember the last time when you slept till 12pm, wasn’t there a dullness and confusion when you woke up. Notice the similarity between qualities of tamas and depression. Sound familiar?
While we are differentiating these energies, it’s also important to understand the role of energies within. If we accumulate too much rajas then we would be up all night! The nature of tamas, the laziness that brings us to snooze is actually crucial for our beauty sleep. Hence the key is balance, just as Ayurveda encourages in all chapters of our lives. Increase of any energy can bring upon disease, and to balance the mind and body at times sattva energy can dissipate the accumulation of rajas and tamas.
Balancing the Energies
As mentioned before these energies can be transformed according to various etiologies, and can be enhanced or subdued by our own awareness and changes in our lifestyle. While we are using rajas energy to understand this article, some might notice the similar qualities that can be seen with ayurvedic dosha energies as well. By understanding this concept, we can see that all is interrelated.
1. Enhancing Sattva
In our hectic lifestyle, with various stressors enhancing sattva can be crucial. Sattvic food are easily digested and brings peace within the mind. Hence many yogis will favor these foods.
Try ghee, dates, honey, basmati rice, mung beans, cow’s milk, and fresh fruits which all enhance these qualities. Sattvic foods have prana energy, the universal life force energy, within all of us. The more processed a food is the less sattvic energy will it contain. Lifestyle changes can include meditation, yoga (not hot). Of note the sattva energy is so pure it can aid to heal various mental issues such a depression, anxiety, and mood swings.
2. Decreasing Rajas
Rajas tends to be one of the major energies within the mind especially since we tend to overwork our senses through excess stimulation from the phone, tv, or any other electronic.
Excess rajas can make the mind overactive, and full of desires. Many pitta foods (spicy, fermented, salty, sour) can enhance this energy. But what is one of the most rajasic foods many individuals take on a daily basis? Caffeine! Other foods are garlic, onion, vinegar, and eggs. Also, one can try to not eat in a hurry and eat in awareness.
3. Decreasing Tamas
Tamasic energy like rajas can be prevalent due to our lifestyle choices especially as our lives become busier and we need quick meals. Excess tamas can invoke lethargy, feelings of being unloved, or lack of motivation.
Major tamasic foods include alcohol, red meat, frozen, leftover foods, deep fried, and canned foods. While these foods should be avoided, for some these foods may comprise majority of their diet and should be at least mixed with sattvic foods.
Next time you notice your mind is restless or dull try one of these changes and notice how you perceive the world differently. Just by becoming aware of the types of food you are eating you can have the power to change the mind as well.