I have been inspired by two of my regular teachers this week, Tara Brach and Sarahjoy Marsh. They both speak of balancing our natures through our practices, noticing our habits, and deciding the direction for our actions. I learn from so many sources and I always want to share these with you, so you can seek from these teachers directly if you choose.
Sarahjoy reminded me that the yoga sutras offer us the three gunas. These are tools for differentiating all aspects of life as either active (Rajas), inert (Tamas) or transcendent (Sattva). If one of these is out of balance, it can cause problems. Too much Rajas leads to overdoing, exertion and rigidity. Too much Tamas leads to apathy, lethargy and depression. Too much Sattva and we become ungrounded, disembodied and unable to accomplish anything concrete.
Tara reminded me that we sometimes live out our animal-like nature, falling prey to our fear, anger and other forms of reactivity. At other times we have a little more distance from our own habitual behavior and can choose, instead to respond to life. We might connect the active (Rajas) and the inert (Tamas) parts of ourselves with this more animal-like nature, when they are out of balance. I might yell or run or freeze or collapse. These are also the responses of the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, freeze, submit). The transcendent (Sattva) self can be connected with that more aware part, like someone sitting up on a hillside, overlooking the chaos of the valley below.
The path of mindfulness includes everything, our reactions, our lethargy, overdoing, or whatever way we are. The idea is that This Is The Path! Whatever is here, now. You’ve heard this idea before, but I feel it bears repeating, because I always think that something is wrong and I need to fix it or at least hide it so no one can see my flaws. It is sweet relief to remember that my tendencies are not my broken parts, but the parts that are waking me up. If I can face them I will eventually wake up.
Everything we can do or say or think has the potential to be helpful or harmful. Some things are a mixture of both. I might speak harshly to my husband about something that’s bothering me, so my word choice and tone could be hurtful, but that information is now being delivered. We are still just babies, trying to understand. We are still children, trying to become what we think others want us to be. We are always human, afraid of failing, afraid of embarrassment, often already sure that we’re doing things wrong.
This takes practice! Recently, I noticed that I had a lot of fear around resources, money specifically. My mind started racing, I started searching for solutions and made ungrounded decisions, too quickly. Then I couldn’t sleep well. I began obsessing about my worries and couldn’t get proper rest. My digestion even reacted. My tendency is toward that Rajas, the part that always wants to be doing. It wasn’t until I practiced asana (yoga postures) with the focus on Tamas that I could start to feel more balanced and able to think clearly. Through this process, I could access the Sattva, the wiser part, and came to a workable solution, which included a sense of calm that wasn’t there before.
Pay attention to yourself. Notice your thoughts. How can you balance your tendencies? Remember that your wisdom is always here. It’s just easier to access at certain times. Be kind while you’re doing all of this. Remember that whatever is here, now is your doorway to awakening.