Everything that we see in the world around us has some quality in it. From people to buildings, from the book we read to the music we hear, from our friend to our job profile, from our thoughts to our feelings, everything that exist can be divided into three categories (gunas);
Sattvic - peaceful, alert yet calm;
Rajasic - agitated and restless;
Tamasic - dull, lethargic and sleepy.
A meditation hall is sattvic while a shopping centre is rajasic. A house with cracks and cobwebs is tamasic. Many of us have so much tamas in us that we are not aware of the energies in and around us. As we become more and more sattvic, we become more and more aware of energy. As one evolves, one will be able to feel the energy present. Thus on an apple tree, some of the fruits are ripe (sattvic), some ripening (rajasic) and some overripe (sattvic). The three gunas pervade all existence, all actions. Sure all of us would have had the experience of being with a tamasic person, who sucks the life force right out of us and leaves us feeling depressed, tired and drained. We feel so sluggish in their presence that we find everything so depressing. And we have also had the pleasure of being with a person who completely energises us, cheers up and leaves us feeling excited to be alive. These people transfer their life force into us and make us feel beautiful.
When we are feeling sad or low, it is often because our energy (Prana) is low. You should have felt it when you had fever or when you felt down for absolutely no logical reason. Well, never underestimate the influence the food can have on us. For example, the food we ate yesterday is still impacting on our mental and emotional state today. If the foods that we primarily ate yesterday were predominantly tamasic, in all probability today we will be feeling dull and sleepy.
Therefore, eating foods that are high in prana can support us in regaining a positive state of mind. Which are those foods? Foods that are high in prana are called as Sattvic foods. Sattvic foods are those, which not only nourish the body, but also have a calming effect on the mind. Sattvic foods are traditionally easier to digest than the rajasic or tamasic variety and do not add to the accumulation of toxins in our systems. These foods include fresh vegetables and fruits, cereals and wholegrain, legumes, nuts, sprouting seeds, honey, herbs and some dairy products.
If you are feeling restless, chances are you have been eating too much of rajasic food. A certain amount of restlessness in us is better; it can propel us to be active. But too much of restlessness typically precedes emotions such as anxiety, anger, violence, lust, sorrow. This is because rajasic foods tend to over-stimulate the nervous system. They include spicy, hot, bitter, sour, pungent foods. Examples include chemically processed food, chillies, onion, garlic, alcoholic, carbonated drinks, chocolates and refined sugars.
If you are feeling dull and heavy (physically, mentally or emotinally). chances are you have been eating too much of tamasic food. Tamasic foods are rarely nutritious in nature. Prolonged ingestion of predominantly tamasic food can contribute to more serious conditions like depression. Even a small amount of it will leave you focused, uninspired an generally pessimistic and lifeless about life. These foods include fermented, canned, deep-fried, processed foods with a lot of preservatives and colouring agents added to them. Fast foods, food which have been cooked and then left beyond three hours will lose prana and become tamasic in nature. These foods adversely affect the functioning of our mental faculties.
What made Mahatma Gandhi walk miles and miles without any tiredness? He walked faster than others and survived only on a few sattvic foods. He neither followed calorie count nor any strict exercise. What made Mother Teresa move on with so much of life and dynamism day and night for the welfare of poor people? She survived on a few fresh foods. These people survived on pure foods and junk food did not picture in their day. They lived a pure life. When I say purity - it means purity in their thoughts as well as foods.
You live in this world as a body. This vehicle called body is a precious as your life. If you are suffering a sickness, how can be healthy? If your body is full of toxins, you will feel heavy and burdened. You cannot be light. You cannot move freely. There is no way for you to jump or dance without aches and pains. Look at the body of a child and you will know she is light because she is free from toxins. But as they grow older, they start thinking in negative ways and as a result develop energy blocks in their body. As you grow older you start eating wrong foods, which may be very pleasurable to your senses and as a result you suffer diseases. So, in a way you start eating junk foods because you start thinking wrong thoughts. So, to become sattvic you need to bring about certain modifications to your eating habits as well as your thinking patterns.
Basic guidelines to move towards sattvic
The old saying, "Early to bed and early to rise make a man healthy and wise" is absolutely true. Sun is the primary source of energy. The longer you wake-up, after sunrise, the lazier and sluggish you will be. The closer you wake up to sunrise, preferably before sunrise, it will make you energetic and dynamic. You can observe the dynamism of animals, birds and most of the elders in the family, they all wake up either at the stroke of sunrise, or earlier than that.
While eating, ensure that you feel the texture of food, the colour, the smell, the sound (like the crisp sound of biting an apple), and not to mention the taste, with some conscious effort. Chewing thoroughly will release all the flavours in the food, so you can derive the taste fully.
You have to be physically involved in some form of a dynamic activity. So, either play a dynamic sport on a daily basis or at least run or cycle or dance or swim for half-an-hour on a daily basis. It energises you.
Eat slowly. When food is eaten too fast, your brain does not have enough time to sense that your body had been fed enough to subside the hunger pangs. Physiologically, it takes about twenty minutes before your brain receives the full signal from your stomach and intestines. Consequently, if you quickly eat a lot of food, by the time this signal reaches your brain, you would be overstuffed and feel uncomfortable. For people who are constantly experiencing a bloated sensation, constipation, stomach pain or heartburn after eating, it is because they are eating too fast.
Fruits, vegetable, grains and seeds are all nourished by natural forces, a reason why they are called sattvic foods. They are the main source of living energy and nutrients, which are vital to our health. Each plant has its own nature, characteristic properties and specialities and they each have their own timetable of growing and maturing. The time to consume plenty of any food is during its season, because the quality and nutritional content will be at its best. During season, these foods are healthier and have greater regulatory and therapeutic effects. In order to stay well and not to miss out on what nature has planned for us, eating seasonal foods is most essential.
Home made Food
There is nothing healthier than eating home-made food. Food made at home is fresh, of higher quality, hygienic, devoid of additives and is not over processed. Even at home, keep in mind that refrigerating, deep-freezing, re-heating, re-cooking and over-processing deplete the nutritional value of food and can make you feel tamasic. Home cooking has immeasurable benefits, much more than just being healthy. Eating food prepared by your loved one can have energising effect on you. Food prepared with love and affection has a direct bearing on our emotions. Restaurants and waiters are not emotionally connected to you. Though such foods taste good, something vital is missing in that food. The invisible ingredient - Love.
You are ingesting more than just food when you eat. Food must be eaten with concentration and awareness. The emotions we feel at the time of eating are very crucial. Chew only your food - not your projects or your worries. At times when you are worried, even eating healthy food is as bad as not having eaten healthy food. Being distracted with books, driving, computers and phones during a meal negates any hope of a complete digestive process.
It is the responsibility of every man to take care of his body and consciously shifting towards healthier foods will change the blueprint of your mind. Since every thought manifests as a powerful messenger molecule in the brain, by changing your way of thinking you not only improve your body but also your relationships and your destiny. If the pilot of an airplane decides to change its course by even half a degree the plane may arrive at a completely different destination. A change in thought can have a similar effect.
Source: An article written by Shobs in FT magazine.