As we shift into the fall season, I’m reminded that life is always changing. In fact, constant change is perfectly illustrated by nature’s transition from season to season. Just like nature, we are in constant change too, flowing from different states of happiness, boredom, anger and frustration---the ups and downs of life. When I remember that this is a natural process, I am able to flow from state to state with a little more grace. Yoga has helped me understand that everything is impermanent and to be compassionate with myself when I’m feeling down or in a rut, because it is only temporary.
Lately a handful of my friends have been expressing that they feel overwhelmed with life and need a mental break from it all. This is clearly understandable with COVID, the civil unrest, natural disasters and the upcoming elections. How can we get out of this rut? I look to the teachings of yoga to help us move from stress to happiness.
The natural ebb and flow of life
First of all, just recognizing that life is constantly changing helps us to shift our perspective from fear or despair to hope. And that energetic shift is critical to moving us out of our slump. When we understand that this ebb and flow of life is part of the process of our transformation and evolution, we can respect the process and respond more skillfully. The yoga philosophy breaks down this cycle into 3 energetic states, or gunas which is Sanskrit for strand or rope. The gunas are described as the energic threads of creation. These energetic states are in dynamic tension with one another, constantly moving from one state to the next in a never-ending cycle. The 3 gunas are sattva, rajas and tamas.
Sattva – This is the feeling of harmony and happiness. It’s the state we all strive to experience. However, this feeling doesn’t last forever. After we are in this “happy place” for a while we have a tendency to become desensitized to this state and get bored. The excitement wears off and we enter into a tamastic, or lethargic state.
Tamas – The characteristics of tamastic energy are boredom and lack of motivation and enthusiasm for life. Nothing is inspiring to us anymore. After some time we get fed-up with this state and, fortunately the rajasic guna, or action-oriented energy, kicks in to get us back onto a more positive path.
Rajas – Here we are craving change and are motivated to get out of our rut and strive for happiness, or sattva. In the rajastic mood we have the fire in our bellies and are passionate to make a change in our lives. There is activity and movement in this energetic state that eventually helps us return to our happy place.
And the cycle continues.
How can you go with the flow?
As mentioned above, remind yourself this is a natural process and that we are always in transition. This will help you appreciate each of the cycles of your moods and understand how they are interconnected and are needed for your continual self-development and growth. Understanding the process of the gunas teaches us to remain fluid so we can transition into each energetic state with a little more ease and skill.
Next time you find yourself in a tamastic mood remember that this feeling will pass! Then treat yourself with compassion versus anger or frustration. Instead of wallowing in your bad mood, put your energy towards things you can do to help you feel better. Engage in positive self-care practices instead of beating yourself up with negative self-talk. When I find myself in a tamastic state I simply go back to the basics, such as meditation, exercise, and clean eating. (Click here to read my Mindfulness Toolkit for other self-care ideas.) It puts me back on track to reach the euphoric feelings of the tamas guna. I have faith that it will do the same for you!