Ayurveda’s Approach to
3 States Of Our Mind
by: Mamta Landerman, CAS
The 3 States of the Mind:
Ayurveda explains the Mind in three states: Sattva, Rajas, Tamas, and the Body as governed by three forces: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Ayurveda breaks down the qualities of our Mind into three states.
- Satva State: When one is inspired, creative, harmonious and has clarity. It has the quality of Light.
- Rajas State: When one is active, sustaining what is created, life sustaining. However when in excess can be agitated, possessive and accumulative. It has the quality of Light, Life and activity.
- Tamas State: A quality that sets in that breaks things down, inertia, repose and the end of any creation. It has the quality of darkness, decay, dissolution, stillness and death.
Everyone has all three. These qualities are inherent in Nature and affect us. If we tune into Nature we can ride its waves and greatly enhance our well-being. In the early morning, around sunrise, there is a stillness, a healthy clarity. It is a great time to learn, create and be inspired: Sattvic.
As the day progresses, there is great activity when one is out generating, and accomplishing and in essence building. The Sun rises to overhead and all of Nature is actively growing! One is in a state of Rajas.
As night falls and the Sun sets, all of the daytime activity leads to decompressing, slowing down relaxing and ultimately dropping into a deep slumber for repose and rejuvenation. The birds stop chirping. A state of Tamas takes over. All three States are natural and necessary.
These states of the Mind (Gunas) surge and ebb within us and around us in Nature, according to time of day, our age and our involvement with our projects.These together define our personality our behavioral patterns and the state of our mental and emotional health. When in excess, especially Rajas or Tamas, can lead to imbalances in mind and body, leading to hyperactivity or hypoactivity respectively. In either state they create an imbalance, which when left unattended can lead to health problems. They dictate our attitude, our personality and our mental emotional and ultimately physical health. In this age or artificial light, and high performance expected at the workplace, imbalances and sleep deprivations seem the norm. A stressful life is considered reality.
How is this used in Ayurveda?
Ayurveda addresses this through Lifestyle. The Practitioner will design an individualized plan that best suits our lifestyle and challenges. This could include less or more exercise, or emphasizing different qualities in one’s diet. Preventive and sustaining practices of breathing or exercises, ways of decompressing that can include aroma therapy, walks in Nature, herbs as relaxing or rejuvenative aids are a few mentions.
If a practitioner suggests an early morning routine, this is because there is a predominance of Sattva quality at sunrise. Waking up early, one is supported by Nature in clarity of mind, meditating at this time, before listening to the News and before other rajasic thoughts set in, one can set a clear intention and move more harmoniously through the day. Exercising wakes up the body and gets a healthy circulation going which energizes one for the day. Ayurveda uses diet as well. Decompressing by withdrawing from the day’s activity with a short meditation or walk can rejuvenate one in the evening.
Health is in Our Hands:
Ayurveda is not just medicine. It is a holistic way of life. Ayurveda believes that good health is the result of a conscious mind. We are all in an evolutionary stage of becoming conscious. Conscious of what we eat, feel, how we work, how we relate to our environment and in our relationships. It also recognizes that we are part of Nature and do best when we harmonize with it, rather than try to dominate it.
Part of the Ayurvedic Practice is to educate us as the Individual so we understand the importance of taking responsibility for our habits, develop our will and engage in our own wellbeing, while supported by the Practitioner to incorporate balance through advice on changes in diet, lifestyle. mindset and preventive and regenerative practices. Ayurveda addresses the whole Being and hence is holistic in its approach.
The Ayurvedic approach to the 3 states of the Mind helps us establish a balance between our outer activity and inner state of mind. Our five senses help us interact with our environment and all relationships. They bring the outer world into our inner realms as experiences. Our intellect helps us discern these experiences and contextualize them. Our personality and ego accept or reject these. Continued repetition of an action forms a habit which if not properly discerned can lead to imbalance. Ayurveda addresses all of these functions of the Mind as well as the use of our 5 senses. Getting conscious and educated about these we evolve with each experience and habit. Ayurveda gives great insight as to how best an individual can balance the mind in its Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic States.