Warm words, Ayurveda & how we bring ourselves
The sky is peachy with swathes of translucent clouds and one seagull flying through. The tree out front, has branches still covered in leaves that move this way and that, to a gentle rhythm.
As I write about the tree it’s branches start waving energetically, so close to the window I feel like I’m inside the tree. This, is a treehouse sitting room where I sit, on a suburban street where the tree outside my window is showing me that autumn, has arrived.
The coriander in my window boxes has gone to flower, waving about in the autumn breeze. Soon the seeds will arrive and drop back down into the soil.
Most of the birds have gone to distant lands and the magpie which will stay, has made its home in a different tree this year, so birdsong has become rare by my window. And the crow is no where to be seen. I shall find enjoyment in the silent airwaves as the branches of the tree out front swirl, looking forward to more chatak chataking and jet black wings in future times.
The sky is blue and silver now, forever changing.
My favourite seasons have always been spring and summer, but as I get older I’m learning to enjoy the hibernation that autumn can bring—cosy times, slowing down, warm jumper, juniper berries, sun low in the sky, golden light, warm stews, candles, clear blue mornings, starry nights early in the evening, flickering fires inside and out, autumn leaves.
I wonder what the season is like for you, and what you are noticing, perhaps you’ll tell us in the comments—I’m saying us in case we’re building community.
How we bring ourselves
When I was away on my gap year that turned into three, while helping at a place called Embercombe, Mac the founder once said to me, “It’s how we bring ourselves, Lucy”.
And I came to realise he was right.
In Ayurveda the way we bring ourselves has a lot to do with our constitutional type, but fundamentally it is determined by the qualities of the energy we are consuming and expressing.
Ayurveda talks about the gunas of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Different foods and experiences bring these gunas—sets of qualities—into the nature of who we are, and what we become.
Sattva guna brings the qualities of lightness, clarity, balance, intelligence, positivity, peace. Rajas brings the qualities of passion, action, motion, energy, disturbed emotions, attachment and longing. Tamas brings the qualities of density, structure, illusion, misperception, heaviness, darkness, deception, chaos and destruction. We are a mixture of all of them and they all balance each other out. And, this mix changes over time, dependent upon what we consume.
We need all three gunas for material existence. Tamas allows our bodies to exist, the structure of things in the world, and the decay needed for life’s seasons to flow. But, in the mind tamas causes misperception and emotionally leads to depression. Rajas allows creativity to flow but too much and without the clarity, balance and intelligence of Sattva; leads to the culture we live in currently, which drives us to consume without care.
The gunas determine how we bring ourselves to our lives. When in a rajasic way unchecked by the peaceful, balanced, intelligent qualities of sattva; this leads to a driven, disturbed, agitated state of being; and when coupled with tamas, can become ruthless, addicted, uncaring and misperceiving.
And so, while all the gunas are needed for physical existence, in the mind we need mainly sattva, if we want to live a healthy, happy, balanced life.
We determine whether we are more sattvic, rajasic or tamasic by what we consume through our senses and our food. If you eat a diet full of processed food laden with artificial preservatives, salt and sugar—quick fix processed tastes that the body becomes addicted to—you will over time, feel restless or lethargic, and create the conditions for ill health as your body’s innate abilities to rebalance, regenerate and heal, are diminished. This will also play out in your mind and emotional experience of life, including how you perceive things with its knock on effect of how you bring yourself to the world.
This takes time. It doesn’t happen over night, so a film night eating lots of rajasic/tamasic foods and watching something with similar qualities, isn’t necessarily a problem, because it can be offset by other more sattvic choices that you are making most of the time—it all depends on your life context. But if you do it most of the time, illness and an unhappy state of mind will be the result.
It’s a fascinating subject, one I’m going to pick up in my The Ayurveda Series podcast next year—possibly later this year—where I will talk about how to live a sattvic life.
Coriander gone to seed
Patches of blue
Lemon and lime leaves
The sounds of friendship
The play of shadow on light
Curling up with a book
Wishing you the warmest,