Yoga and Ayurveda explain the mind in terms of the three gunas: qualities of nature that make the mind, either happy and peaceful (sattva), motivated and turbulent (rajas), or dull and ignorant (tamas).
Our inherent human desire is to be more sattvic; and who wouldn’t want more peace and happiness in their lives?
To get there, we can bring more sattva into our lives by making mindful choices in terms of sensory input, relationships, diet, and environment.
Our senses are the gateway between the external world and the mind. We continuously bring in sensory impressions through our eyes, ears, mouth, nose, and skin.
If these sensory impressions are proper and balanced (sattvic), we feel happy and uplifted. If they’re in excess, deficient, or imbalanced (rajasic or tamasic), we feel disturbed and agitated.
The mind is extremely sensitive. Someone who chooses negative visual input by watching a lot of horror movies tends to have a distorted sense of safety in this world.
We can choose to be peaceful or agitated based on what sensory impressions we allow in. While we don’t have control over every sight, smell, and sound, there are still an infinite number of other choices to be made. Choosing our sensory input wisely is the easiest way to alter our mind and uplift our consciousness.
For example, instead of watching a horror movie, try watching a beautiful nature documentary or a comedy. Or maybe, instead of listening to mindless talk radio on your way to work, try listening to a peaceful sitar solo. Replacing negative sensory impressions with those that are positive will increase our sattva.
What is our experience afterward? Do we leave the interaction feeling uplifted? Or does a certain relationship cause us to feel unsettled, agitated, or critical of ourselves?
Hopefully, we spend the majority of our time with people that uplift us. However, this isn’t to say that even the greatest of friends will sometimes bring us down—part of friendship is supporting someone even when they’re at their lowest. But if we can recognize that someone else’s energy is consistently lowering our own, it may be time to part ways.
Sattvic relationships on the other hand can inspire us to be better people. They encourage us to be open-minded and to do what’s right for our own well-being.
We can work on increasing sattva in negative relationships by choosing love over arguing, or choose to surround ourselves with sattvic people like spiritual teachers and those who walk mindfully on the path.
Because what we eat has such a strong effect on the body, diet shouldn’t be overlooked. Yogis eat a sattvic diet. It eliminates foods that make the mind agitated or dull, and emphasizes foods that make the mind calm and stable.
A sattvic diet is considered vegetarian (as non-violence is sattva) and based on real, whole foods.
Fresh fruit – Fill your diet with plenty of fruits, such as apples, kiwis, prunes, tangerines, and bananas.
Vegetables – Try eating vegetables such as artichokes, eggplant, lettuce, spinach, and kale.
Grains – Incorporate more grains into your diet, such as barley, buckwheat, and quinoa.
Legumes – Fill your diet with plenty of beans, lentils, and peanuts.
Dairy – Seed milk, hemp milk, and almond milk are wonderful options to make your diet more sattvic.
Natural sweeteners – Try stevia or raw honey.
Think of your home as an external extension of the body, it encompasses our most inner core—the soul. For this reason, our home should be like a temple; a space that makes us feel peaceful and happy.
There are many ways to make our home more like a temple. Keeping it clean is the most obvious (“cleanliness is godliness”). And remember, an uncluttered space promotes an uncluttered mind!
Altering the space with aromatherapy, gentle music, sunlight, and soft lighting changes the vibe. Adding an altar invites worship and a visual reminder of spirit. If space allows, we can even set aside a room or corner for yoga and spiritual practices!
Being in nature makes us feel calm and revived—sattvic. Being alienated from nature is one of the sources of our rajasic and tamasic cultures; the deeper we live in a city, the more we tend to lose sight of truth. We become more and more fixated on material possessions and goals, and less concerned with our spiritual development.
Swimming in the ocean or walking through a forest brings us back to sattva. Any kind of beautiful natural surroundings are good for the mind, as they pull us away from the artificial world and back to light.
All aspects of our life can be sattvic, rajasic, or tamasic. If we want to be more conscious and aware, we should work on increasing our sattva by making mindful choices.