How To Cultivate A Sattvic Lifestyle : A Path to Purity Of Mind & Body
In the philosophy of Ayurveda, all universal matter derives from the sea of Consciousness called Prakriti. From Prakriti, three gunas (qualities) are produced that fundamentally make up the whole of nature : energy, matter and consciousness. The three gunas are tamas (inertia), rajas (movement), and sattva (pure essence). They pervade in all objects and beings in relative amounts. As humans, we are capable of consciously influencing these three gunas in our bodies and minds. Although they cannot be separated or eliminated, one can choose through right actions, lifestyle choices and thoughts to increase or decrease each quality. Naturally, the aim would be to cultivate more of the Sattva quality in our lives to improve our health and attitude towards life as well as cultivate inner peace, contentment and a sense of True Joy. We will take a look at each of these three gunas to see how they manifests at the level of the mind and how you can choose to bring in more Sattva in your daily life:
Rajas is the principle of turbulence, movement, reaction and change. In our minds, this can translate as our perception being veiled by anger and frustration as experienced by the Ego, thus disturbing our sense of inner peace and creating the desire for power. It tends to want to over-control as well as creating a sense of attachment. You can see this quality being really present in our modern day 'goal-oriented' and fast-paced society. If you identify with your mind being dominated by this guna, you can reduce rajasic foods which include fried and/or spicy foods, stimulants, meats, fermented foods and stale leftovers. Also, listen carefully to your body to know if you are over-exercising or over-working and thinking excessively (''restless mind syndrome''). Over exposure to loud music and the need to excessively shop also increase rajas.
Tamas brings an energy of dullness, darkness and muddled perception. It creates confusion within the mind and disconnects us from our inner knowing. Through ignorance and fear, we can experience laziness and an inability to focus. In your everyday life, we can perceive tamas when we feel somewhat paralyzed, numb and unable to set things in motion from either insecurities, traumas, lack of interest or loss of faith. Tamas is aggravated by tamasic foods such as heavy meats and cheese, processed, refined and overripe foods as well as chemical additives. Excessive sleep, over eating, lack of exercise and exposing oneself to fearful situations also increases tamas.
Sattva can be described as being clear, divine in nature and pure. When our perception is unobstructed by anchored belief systems, judgements or negativity, it allows us to view the world with heightened awareness, true Intelligence, developed intuition, clear self-knowing as well as feeling in tune with nature. In Ayurveda, it is believed that this is actually the natural state of the mind - the state of stillness that preceded the imprints of life and experience. Our goal would be to achieve this state of being to fulfill our spiritual destinies and enjoy ultimate health of mind-body-spirit. To cultivate this guna, let's take a look at the pillars of the Sattvic lifestyle :
Altought tamasic and rajasic foods have their place in our diets depending on our constitutional needs, we can all aim to include more foods that enhance the quality of Sattva. These are considered to be the most harmonious foods which can greatly contribute to optimal health or healing. A sattvic diet, considering adequate portions, includes the following staples:
- Fresh, local and organic fruit and vegetables
- Whole grains and nuts (especially almonds)
- Dairy products such as nut mylks, whole milk, ghee and fresh yogourt
- Legumes and pulses
- Plant-based oils
- Natural and unrefined sweeteners like dates, honey, maple syrup, molasses and jaggery
- Fresh Spices and herbs to enhance the taste and medicinal properties of foods
Mindfully Moving Your Body
Naturally, yoga would be the optimal exercise recommended here as it is Ayurveda's sister science. As the yogi is called to bring mindfulness to each asanas (posture) and to regularly check in on his or her state of being, we can understand how Sattva is being cultivated in this particular practice. Remember that different constitutions call for certain adjustments : Vata and Pitta, tending more towards the rajasic qualities, need to practice a gentler and slower form of yoga. Kapha however, having more tamasic tendencies, benefits from a quicker pace and more vigorous asanas that will stimulate them. Regardless of what form of physical activity you choose to do, what matters most is that you are bringing loving awareness to your body and respecting its limits at all time. Also, choose certain activities during the week that connect you the outdoors (gentle to moderate walks included) to take in all of nature's elements through the senses.
Sleep is the crucial time when our bodies and minds deeply rest, eliminate toxins and rejuvenate. In Ayurveda, it it said that sleep can be compared to a meditative state in which the rational mind takes a step back in order for the unconscious mind, in the form of dreams and other realms of communication, to complete unresolved actions, bring forward solutions and communicate to our psyches important information about our healing. Both sleep deprivation and oversleeping can have a profound influence on our health, as many studies will attest. For good sleep hygiene, aim to go to bed by 10 pm and rise slightly before sunrise, which will vary from season to season. If you suffer from insomnia, try to establish a bedtime routine that works for you and eliminate any stimulation and screen time at least an hour beforehand.
Reduction of Stress
We all know of the very serious impact of stress on our bodies and minds. Every moment we crisp our muscles, that we taint our thoughts with fear and anxiety or we self-sabotage, we move further away from a state of bliss. Sattva also means being content with WHAT IS, accepting that an ultimate truth is at play and that we are a meaningful part of a bigger whole. Ayurveda offers many tools to help decrease its negative effects on our lives in order to move towards a more sattvic life, meditation being the most direct practice to still the mind for blissful awareness to pervade. There is also aromatherapy, daily routines, massage, yoga and various other practices and treatments that are worth exploring. At its core, it is really about working on how you chose to perceive the world around you and continually showing up to face ''the darker self'' with an authentic desire to work through the lessons. It is about being open, and trusting - setting this intention from the moment you rise in the morning, like a daily mantra. This in turn allows more space for compassion towards yourself and others, igniting a desire to serve the greater good - It doesn't get any more sattvic than that :)