This is quite a challenging blog to write. It has a really personal story held within its words and also a deep connection to my emotions and my inner reflections.
As some of you are aware, my family have been through a tough few months. I have been helping a loved family member to settle into a nursing home following a recent diagnosis of Dementia.
Unfortunately, despite my best efforts and a lot of time and attention, he has been re-admitted to hospital because he was unable to adjust to being in his new residence.
Having fought so hard to find him somewhere beautiful, and to work with him, the social services, the hospital, the new home and other deciding parties, I now feel exhausted and devastated.
In yoga Philosophy, Pratyahara listed as one of Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga.
Pratyahara means ‘removal of the senses’. We use our senses to guide us towards pleasure and to keep us away from pain; stirring our emotions and thus inadvertently causing us to become attached to the external desires, internal effects and impulses, which lead us away from the higher self and leave us consumed by life’s external flux.
Every person is empowered to follow the path in life they choose for themselves and in accordance with their Divine will. When acting consciously, you can choose to live mindfully and to steer yourself away from the short term fixes that the senses and inner reflections are drawing you towards; thereby consciously moving towards the path that will aid spiritual practice and physical and emotional health.
The movement of the senses gives us a feeling of unsteadiness and instability at times. We can also be held captive by them. We move towards the outside world for support or comfort, and then we equally turn our attention inward to our own mental and emotional movements.
The different states of consciousness related to these changes are called the Gunas. The Gunas are described as being;
1, Sattvic, which relates to a positive mental state; where peace and balance or a Divine connection to bliss is the experience.
2, Rajas, which relates to one’s level of activity and energy; where one can be driven by anger and desire, or through their increased sense of will, they can be driven towards holding a high achievement.
3, The final state is that of Tamas; this is a restraining energy. If someone is in a Tamasic state, they are likely to be lethargic and have no mental or physical drive. They may also hold a level of resistance or stubbornness
We are born with a tendency towards a certain Guna. For example, if someone has a Sattvic energy and outlook, they will be naturally mindful and calm. They have an expansive view on life and like to remain balanced when dealing with the things life throws at them.
If someone is born with a more Rajastic energy, they may be more forceful and may be inclined towards outbursts of emotion. They may be driven to achieve in life and find it hard to sit and relax.
Those who are more Tamasic in nature, may find motivation difficult, they may struggle with physical activities and prefer to be more passive in life. They may procrastinate. They may also tend to look on the downside more readily than someone of a more rajasic nature.
None of the Gunas are bad in and of themselves. We need the drive of the Rajasic Guna to get up and going in the morning, We need the restful state of the Tamasic Guna to calm down when needed and it is through the movement of these two Gunas, that we achieve Satva. Where we become aligned, balanced, present and observational.
When learning of the power of the Gunas we can begin to consciously use their individual energies to bring about the required state for the required occasion.
For example; different foods are influenced by and have an influence over each of the Gunas, so we can begin to alter the influence of the Gunas simply by choosing the correct foods to eat.
I had been working so hard to resolve the situation my family member was in that I had moved very strongly into the Rajasic state. I had moved out of my natural energy and pushed forward to ‘rescue’ him! Although he was pleading to be rescued, his natural and Tamasic nature meant he resisted energetically, and practically when it came to actually having to become involved himself. He has a very glass half full attitude; meaning that the energy around him wasn’t wanting to move or be resolved.
As I was fighting against this with may Rajasic input, (trying to turn a wheel that was not wanting to move); I ended up depleting myself. Should I had been less Rajasic and more Sattvic, I would have held space for him and acted in a way that conserved my energy, that allowed the situation to unfold in a more natural manner and although we would still have most likely ended up with him continuing to reside in the hospital he is in now, the energy I expelled would have been far more balanced, and I’d have been left less depleted. I would have been holding a balance between my energy and his.
The lessons I have learned from this is that `I need to read the energy of the situation that I am choosing to hold. This was not my energy I was dealing with, it was all done on behalf of my family member and I was working with his energy, not mine. My conscious action should have resided with compassion (which I had oodles of) and attention to detail (presence). The sattvic approach was to hold space and act as and when needed, consciously and with purpose.
Dementia is a hard illness to deal with and I just wanted to get him into a special place where he had comfort, he just didn’t see it that way and wanted to be where he was familiar. He can’t stay where he is long term so at some point, the system and the natural flow of the Gunas will open a path that is in line with his Divine acceptance.
I hope this short explanation helps you to use the knowledge of the Gunas in your daily life and helps you learn to ‘read’ the situations around you and your own energy at any given time.
We are all doing our best and we have tools we can use to empower us, open us, heal us and resolve difficult situations.
What are you holding and how are you holding it? Is it yours to hold or is it just yours to hold space for?
The topic of the 3 Gunas was explored during this month’s Walk the Talk Masterclass. Each month, I take an arm of yogic philosophy and explore how it reflects on and influences the daily lives we lead. The next one is on Monday 26th June. You can book here if you feel this may be of interest.
Sending love and healing light.