It’s said the two biggest, and interrelated, questions in life are “Who am I?” and “Who is God?” I don’t know about you, but I find both endlessly fascinating and explorable. In answering them, and transforming the first, the philosophy of yoga, in my experience, is an incredible gift. For instance, while my abilities to focus, be equanimous (composed), and connected to others are gifts, when they’re unbalanced, they become curses. Yoga’s three gunas, qualities of energy present in everyone, helps us see, shift, and synchronize things like these in ourselves, so we can become increasingly full of life and Love!
“If I’d asked you to do that,” Lisa said in response to my asking her why she hadn’t asked me to do something for her during my work day, “you would have gotten frustrated and upset.” While, based on previous experiences, my wife was right about me, I’m changing and in the process of proving her wrong. 😉 As with many other ancient and/or foreign ideas, there’s a variety of ways to understand and apply the gunas (pronounced Goo-Nahs). So, while the way Seane Corn describes them in Revolution of the Soul: Awaken to Love Through Raw Truth, Radical Healing, and Conscious Actionstrays a bit from other things I’ve read, it strikes me as helpful and insightful, and will be what I use here.
The three primary gunas, or types of energies within all creation, are rajas, tamas, and sattva. Think of them like gas tanks. People both have a guna she/he is naturally predisposed toward and filled with, and our environments, relationships, practices, diets, jobs, habits, and so on will increase or decrease how much each of our three tanks are filled. When one of our tanks is notably fuller than the others (as easily happens), we will live and move from that space … potentially in a less than beneficial, or even harmful, manner. While I’d characterize a rajas fueled person as The Protestor, a tamas driven one is The Homebody, and the sattva motivated one is The Hand-Holder.
As with much else in life, protestor, homebody, and hand-holder dispositions can be both lifegiving and destructive. While we generally live in the former space when we’re balanced, we veer into the latter when we’re not. Think about it, while a protestor who is also calm (homebody) and kind (hand-holder) helps make the world a better place by raising awareness and sparking productive conversations, an unbalanced one is like fingernails on a chalkboard. Likewise, a homebody who’s active and creates (protestor) and cherishes togetherness (hand-holder) has great get-togethers and parties, but without the latter two energies a homebody becomes a body lying on the couch watching Netflix and eating. Finally, a hand-holder who combines passion for social justice (protestor) with calm centeredness (homebody) cultivates community, but when he/she’s energies are askew, the hand-holder gets dragged along or bowled over.
In its health, the spirit of rajas motivates, energizes, creates, lights a fire under butts, and gives birth to new things. In unhealth, though, it’s distracted, self-righteous, and ego-centric. Tamas helps us feel stable, grounded, and rested, but can become apathetic, self-limiting, and unwilling to change when unbalanced. While the qualities of sattva bring unity, awareness, joy, a profound sense of connection, and a feeling that all is well when a person is running on all “cylinders”, it can easily become too attached to the approval, views, needs, and responses of others when it’s not.
As a yoga teacher and writer, I love to create and give birth to new classes, blogs, playlists for classes, words of inspiration on social media, and a book that I’m in the process of publishing. I’m also a very focused person. I’ve been realizing, though, that I’ve been overemphasizing these rajastic (protestor) and tamastic (homebody) energies to the detriment of my sattvic (hand-holder) vitalities, which has been preventing me from being as Loving and caring as I can and aspire to be. So, even before Lisa and my aforementioned conversation, I’d began the process of rebalancing my vital energies and dispositions to become fuller of life and Love.
As I process all of this, I could just as easily tell you about when I was too sattvic, so got dragged into unhealthy relational dynamics or was badly burned … but I won’t. 🙂 I merely wanted to point out this is an ongoing process of observing, tuning, checking, adjusting, etc.
Understanding my relationship to the gunas not only strikes me as a super helpful way to learn how to live a more fullhearted life, it’s helping me do just that! What resonates with you from this? Are there any ways you could better balance your energies?
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