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Have you ever wondered why we do the same dumb things again and again in our lives?
Perhaps you are repeatedly attracted to the same kind of partner, or get triggered by your spouse or kids in the same way, over and over again.
According to Ayurveda, we create these reactive emotional responses in our minds in order to feel safe and secure and to avoid hurt feelings.
Making deep transformational change is a challenge that involves a series of steps, and it starts by knowing your Emotional Body Type.
Join me in the first step of changing old emotional patterns by taking this simple Emotional Body Type Quiz.
Take the Emotional Body Type Quiz
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Three Principles of Nature
According to Ayurveda, there are three principles in nature that govern the mind and its emotions: sattva, rajas, and tamas. These three principles are known as the gunas, which means to bind. When the gunas are out of balance, they can bind – or inhibit – spiritual growth, contentment, and joy.
Let me explain the nature of the gunas, and how they affect you when they get out of balance.
1. Sattva: At Peace
Sattva is the first of these gunas, or principles. It refers to the inherent nature of the mind to be intelligent, virtuous, loving, joyful, kind and giving for no reason. This is the state children are born in. They do not have a care in the world. They live totally in the moment and function with awe-inspiring enthusiasm, which is why adults are so drawn to them. It is the aspiration of human life to experience more sattva, as sattva denotes the fullness of the heart and the freedom of the mind.
2. Rajas: Stimulated
Rajas refers to the qualities of action and drive, movement, stimulation of the senses and emotions.
As children grow up, they are quick to realize that the outside world is not as safe as the one at home. Hurt feelings at the playground or in pre-school can result in our receiving the message that the delicate and fragile experience of being sattva is unsafe. The mind’s reaction is often to shield itself by engaging in rajasic activities. The child realizes that if they become a good athlete, a straight-A student, or the class clown, they can feel safe again. Unlike the sattvic experience, this rajasic experience of safety is dependent on an outside influence, namely the attention of others.
In this way, the initial sattvic experience of a full heart and a free mind is replaced by the drive for accomplishment and acknowledgment. As children grow into adults, the dependence on stimulation often leads to a mind that cannot be still and is unsatisfied unless it is buying something new, making more money, falling in love, being praised, or otherwise engaged in sensory stimulation.
Most of us live here, in the world of rajas, continually seeking satisfaction through our senses.
3. Tamas: Withdrawn
Tamas, the third mental principle, refers to the qualities of dullness, laziness, and protection.
In an attempt to become satisfied through rajasic activities and drive, the mind burns out. Without the energy to forge on as before, gleaning temporary satisfactions through the senses, we retreat into a safe protective cocoon.
The tamas principle is dull, fatalistic, judgmental, jealous, dark and depressed. It is a retreat into an extreme mindset of safety in which we blame others and the world for our own problems. The mind becomes rigid in its beliefs, creating isolation and dissociation from others. On this trajectory, we can become lonely, bitter, angry, and often seek drugs, alcohol or other addictions to maintain the illusion of the safe cocoon.
Once here, it is difficult to climb out and requires the addition of sattva to offer a glimpse of the long lost experience of truth, joy, and happiness, and also of rajas, to provide the energy needed for action and change.
* All three gunas have a place in nature, but in our Western culture, we have become so separated from the sattvic principle, that the goal for most of us is to move away from rajas and tamas, towards sattva.
Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas in Everyday Life
We all have sattvic, rajasic and tamasic moments – this is natural. This questionnaire below will offer some feedback to see if you are drifting away from sattva and becoming more rajasic or tamasic, as is so common in our culture. If you notice that drift, use your findings, and this moment of honest self-reflection, to inspire a shift back to the joy and love within.
Please take the questionnaire and tally up your scores. Remember, the gunas are always changing and, as such, this questionnaire is not intended to provide a static diagnosis. The idea is simply to bring awareness to the places where we tend to go out of balance. I will then try to offer some strategies to navigate our way back to a more sattvic experience of life.
Sattva is when there is no need for the mind to provide protection; you are free to be yourself fully. Rajas is that first attempt of the mind to protect and offer sensory or emotional stimulation, creating a temporary experience of satisfaction. Tamas is a more aggressive, emotional attempt to be safe and secure.
Sattva: If your Emotional Body Type is predominately sattva, then life is good. Remember, one can always chip away at changing some of the rajasic and tamasic qualities that exist. If you scored 100% sattva, this is the score of a saint, and not necessarily the goal.
Rajas: Excess rajas indicates the risk of burning out, or chasing love and satisfaction with activities that may never deliver what you truly seek.
Tamas: Excess tamas usually means you have drifted into a protective cocoon that your mind has convinced you is the safest place to be.
Once you have determined your Emotional Body Type, you can use this information to start moving away from some of those tamasic and rajasic qualities, towards sattva.
This process of self-inquiry can be adapted to any or all of the rajasic or tamasic qualities that may be negatively affecting your life. The goal is not to necessarily score all sattva in this questionnaire, but to become aware of tamasic or rajasic qualities that are not serving you. I suggest starting with the tamasic qualities you checked and work your way into some of the rajasic qualities. This questionnaire provides the first step for change, which is the awareness that your mind has created this rajasic or tamasic illusion in the first place, in the name of safety and security.
While issues like not being able to concentrate or having a poor memory can be caused by a number of physical or bio-chemical factors, they may also be protective mental traits that can be changed. The mind often uses these qualities to cover up mental clarity, a great memory, or even the ability to forgive someone, because it has determined through a veil of illusion that you are safer without those qualities of clarity or forgiveness.
Your job – if you decide to do it – is to realize how your mind has hidden the experience of your true, joyful, happy, and most powerful self in the name of safety. It is time to take that risk of experiencing life fully by chipping away at the qualities that are serving you no longer – one step at a time.