By guest author Carmen Howell of The Sadhana Studio
These days meditation and yoga are my vices – positive habits which have evolved and have slowly woven into my bodily intelligence.
When I find myself transforming and experienceing the discomfort that can often be present with transformation, rather than slipping back into the grip of unsupportive habits – such as enslaving myself to a diet, convincing myself that vitamins are the cure for my lack of energy, punishing my body by over exercising, or blaming other people, for my discontent – I know that it is time to practice.
It is time to get on the floor, close my eyes, stretch, breathe, be still and watch what comes and then give it all up.
This is my medicine. This is self healing at the core. Mind food…
Also woven into that same intelligence is another pivotal evolution; food choices which serve my body and mind and food that extends and nourishes far beyond basic physical necessity.
I still very much have habits that I am aware I need to let go of, however they scratch rather than wound in that they are far less dulling or stimulating to my senses. As I continue to practice, I am confident that they will also drop away with little effort.
Food is Life – Life is Food
First there is our breath, then there is food. It is our life source and every time we eat we have the choice to cultivate the qualities of clarity, intelligence, peace, love and strength. These qualities are deeply imbued in the essence of every life-giving herb, fruit, seed and plant.
In Maya Tiwiri’s – Secrets of Healing, she refers to an excerpt from the Taittiriya Upanishad, which states that:
“Food is much more than nutrition. In eating, we are assimilating God by churning the essences of the universe within our body, enabling us to recall our cognitive memories.”
Eating the Elements
When we chose food fresh from the earth and source, and untampered, within it is the essence of the elements, containing the sun’s stimulating fire and the cooling rain waters.
The refined essence of a food untampered, grown in it’s natural environment, has a unequivicol ability to directly impart the same energy in our body, aiding our innate natural intelligence.
When a true understanding and experience of just how influential food affects our bodies and mind, there is a natural inclination to eat more wholesomely, and seasonally. Many choose to abstain from eating animal flesh, due to the consciousness of the animal being denser and more emotive than plants. Unsupportive food habits simply drop away.
The Modern-Day Food Dilemma
Unfortunately, we are probably further from natural food sources than perhaps any other time in our history.
Food manipulation has dire consequences.
It messes with the universal intelligence, the core DNA of each seed and animal. This DNA contains the primordial essence, which makes a plant or animal healthy, happy and nutritious. Food tampering and modification, intensive farming of animals and plants is simply not harmonious…. If our food source is not happy, then according to Vedic lore, then we too are absorbing this disharmony.
On top of this, we eat standing up, in our cars, in front of the television, whilst arguing and when we don’t need to.
Perhaps the most daunting is the frequency that people choose to eat out – eating fast foods or in restaurants, where food is cooked at a frantic pace, often without an inch of mindfulness, love or nourishment. We eat to fill our stomachs… out of habit, often with no thought at all. And we expect that these sorts of food choices and rituals will nourish us?
The Great Coming Together
At some point in our history many cultures have gravely disconnected from the source of food. This has evolved into a deeply rooted disrespect, an unconscious and ungrateful atttitude for our food sources. This is reflected in society by the vast numbers of people whom are sick.
To understand the problem, lets look at the ancient wisdom of the Yoga sutras.
The yoga sutras state that there are five causes for suffering of which “attachment” is one. It is described as clinging to pleasure, and this creates suffering.
For many people eating is an indulgent and often ungrateful pleasure. At the opposite end of the spectrum, food is denied as in anorexia. Rither way there is deeply unconscious attitude towards food that – what ever way you look at it – creates suffering.
In my personal journey I’ve discovered that the more I focused on understanding my mind, the less attached I became to my body, and the healthier my body became.
When I was attached to my body, my mind suffered.
Usually there are boundless self-limiting beliefs caught in the play of “attachment”. A fundamental example of these beliefs is a discrimination between the world and the Self. I.E. that we are somehow separate from the world – including our food sources.
In Yoga and Ayurveda the universal energies are referred to as (Gunas)
These are the energies of light, motion and mass. They take the form of the elements, which are the same elements that grow our food. Human beings are also a grosser denser form of the elements. The elements are always, continuous, transient, and intertwined.
The gunas operate on different levels; gross, subtle, causal and unmanifest. They are responsible for everything.
We are influenced by the play of the gunas, in every aspect of our life, therefor; there is no discrimination between the self and the world. The gunas have been defined as three;
The Triple Qualities of Nature
Known as the triple qualities of Nature; The gunas are; Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.
They are simple, yet deeply profound understanding of the fluctuations found not only in the human mind, and body, but also amongst the plants and animals… all of which as human beings we depend on for survival.
A direct experience and understanding of the triple qualities is of great benefit for those of us, seeking a more direct and loving relationship with our consciousness and beyond…
It is likely that the quality of Sattva is familiar, particularly for yoga and ayurvedic students, as it is often used to describe, the peaceful and loving qualities that we all endeavour to develop through out practice.
Perhaps less well-known are the rajas and tamas qualities; we can and do come under the influence of all three qualities (gunas) in all aspects of our being. We can shift from Sattvic to tamasic and from tamasic to Sattvic, based on choices that we make in our lives.
The Gunas Defined
Sattva – ( Sat) in Sanskrit means truth. The qualities are peaceful, devotional, loving, calm and inner joy. We all know someone who has a sattvic nature – mostly calm, compassionate and thoughtful.
Rajas –( Raj) is red, symbolic of the fire to create, activity, ambition, restlessness, aggressive, and agitated. Rajasic types tend to be the majority in our present western cultural reality. Frequently agitated and aggressive, restlessness in the mind and with boundless ambition. There are two kinds of Rajas; positive creative and active, or negative aggressive and unhappy.
Tamas – darkness, laziness, inertia, procrastination and dullness. People that tend to depend on narcotics and alcohol are under the tamasic influence, as any sort of drug dulls the senses and the mind. It eventually leads us into inertia and dullness, despite the initial illusion of feeling happy. Anyone that lacks motivation is tamasic.
How do the gunas qualities apply to our food?
Generally the type of food people eat depends on whether they are tamasic, rajasic or sattvic. This principle also applies to our attitude towards how we cook, prepare and eat the food also.
Tamasic food – Plants such as marijuna, opium, kava kava and valerian are considered tamasic, particularly if taken frequently. They promote the dull and inactive qualities, and the lack of motivation associated with tamas. Therefore it is likely that people who are under the tamasic qualities will use these sorts of herbs and plants. This will likely keep them in the tamasic quality and or make them even more tamasic.
Other tamasic foods include meat (particularly if the animal has had a stressful slaughter), any food that has a dulling quality, or is void of any sort of life force – processed, prepackaged frozen foods, foods cooked in the microwave, leftovers, supplements, alcohol… I think you know where I am going with this.
Rajasic food – These tend to be stimulating, sharp, hot and spicy, and some meats fall into the rajasic quality also. In the plant kingdom, plants such as tea and coffee – which for many of us are staple vices for keeping us active throughout the day – garlic and onions fall into the rajasic quality. This is why many yogis tend to avoid these in their cooking.
Sattvic food – “Makes you beautiful and healthy from within and without”. Most herbs, fruits and vegetables are considered Sattvic. Any food that promotes calmness, strength, happiness and health and food that expands your heart!
May the Sattvic Force be with you
The key to self healing and for those on the path to know the self, is to nurture the sattvic qualities. This is the method to transcend suffering, on all levels.
Disease is the force of tamas which is the accumulation of toxins and waste. It is physically negative and causes emotional imbalance at the level of the mind, and usually avoidance of any sort of spiritual nurturing.
Raja; is movement; to either disease or to health.
Change yourself, change your food
By being mindful about the food we chose, we can begin to change our habits and behaviour. The play of gunas in our life is like a game of snakes and ladders, sometimes we move up by making good choices, then depending on our choices we can slip back down. We can be a combination of all three, with the ability to mix numerous states.
The more sattvic qualities we incorporate in our choices, the easier it will be to firmly manage our mind, not have the mind control us.
Understanding the role food, has on our mental wellbeing is an essential part of self-healing.
“We should learn how to care for our mind properly, so that one day, siblings, elders, teachers, can pass this information on to future generations.” Paramhamsa Prajnananandaji, Know your Mind
- Mother Maya Tiwari- Secrets of Healing
- Paramahamsa Prajnanananda – Know Your Mind
Carmen treasures the slower pace of living. Set apart from a frantic pace, she continues to evolve, nestled amongst the beauty and nature, of Lake Hawea. Carmen has developed Sadhana; Women’s Health and Consciousness.
Lifestyle programmes which draw on yoga and Ayurvedic wisdom, which assit and empower; Women of all ages and stages to reclaim feminine health and align with their purpose.