I’m usually suspicious of mystic sounding nonsense. Its healthy to take things with a pinch of salt. There is a mountain of bogus information out there. But not in this note.
I have been thinking about this topic for a decade. I’m writing about #LivingDeeply this month. Today is Day 15.
I mentioned there are three states of existence: Sattva (luminous), Rajas (action and anxiety), Tamas (confusion, lethargy). These three exist together at all times, but one dominates the other at any given time. The dominant state can change, but how we live our lives can also affect our states. Today’s topic is about how our lifestyle choices change our states.
This isn’t pseudo-science. Western science is only beginning to catch up with what the yogis have always knows. You may already have heard in school about the body’s “fight or flight” response, or the “rest and digest” response. Well, these are Rajas and Tamas for you.
Our food choices can affect our mood. No surprises there. When we have coffee, our heart rate goes up, and we are filled with a little more Rajas. When we have a heavy protein and carb meal, our stomach wants all the blood to be sent over for digestion, and the body slumps with lethargy, which is how we know it’s Tamas.
Drugs can cause Rajas or Tamas. There are stimulants (like coffee or cigarettes) that can cause Rajas to go up (initially, and then Tamas). There are depressants, like alcohol, that can cause slurred speech, impaired movements and an all round lethargy leading to passing out, which is how we know it’s Tamas.
Music can cause Rajas, if its a fast paced piece with heart-thumping beats, or it can cause Tamas, if its more languid and melancholic.
How you stand can change your state. A power pose with a straight back and a menacing chest thumping routine can make you look like Tarzan. A slumped back look can cause you to feel less confident and slouching away in the background.
All of the yoga system is designed around balancing these gunas. Pranayama, Asanas and visualizations can all be used to increase or decrease specific gunas.
How you consume the news can change your state. This is what I really wanted to talk about today.
Rage is Rajas. Outrage is more mindless Rajas. Today’s social media driven news feeds are designed for outrage. Dead babies, murders, liars, rapists, and all other potent imagery used to incite us enough to click, to share, and to infect others with the same vitriolic anger that is now making your blood boil.
Don’t read the news daily. Unsubscribe all your activist friends, or at least unsubscribe from their feeds. Their Rajas is their problem, and you should not infect yourself with it.
Mindless consumption is Tamas. Watching cat videos, memes, or anything passively only substitutes for actual activity and engagement. Don’t do it. Watching mindless TV, likewise.
When I teach meditation sittings, I direct sitters to find that place where they are relaxed and filled with energy. Its not possible if you have been indulging a Rajas or Tamas lifestyle, because you will either be boiling over with raging throughs, or be dulled into stupor. That’s no way to lead a life.
Our moods are driven by our biology (will address karma theory separately), but the lifestyle we lead can accentuate or dampen our internal states. If we learn to listen to our body and our moods, we can actually learn to operate much better in this world.