You know that feeling that washes over you during savasana after a great yoga class? Or when you are working on something that puts you in flow? How about when you finally get the house to yourself for an hour? That’s all sattva. Sattva is the peaceful, creative influence inside of us, and all around us. It’s Goodness. Positivity itself.
Ayurveda says that the mind is a subtle energy field. The mind interacts with, and is influenced by, the information that we receive from our physical senses. The three gunas – sattva, rajas, and tamas – are the three energies of the mind.
Sattva is harmony and clarity. It gives us our sense of peace and happiness. Sattva leads us to the truth. It is plentiful in a healthy mind, and makes us feel centered and strong.
People high in sattva are: “endowed with memory, devotion; graceful, learned, pure, courageous, skillful, resolute, fight in battles with prowess, free from anxiety, having well-directed and serious intellect, and engaged in virtuous acts” (Charaka Samhita, Vimdnasthanam VIII, 110).
Wow, I’ll take some of that!
Anything that increases sattva in the mind is considered highly valuable.
devoted, humble, calm, in harmony, adaptable, intelligent, empathetic, enthusiastic, positive, eloquent, content, courageous, clear, peaceful, joyous, balanced, uplifted, creative, well, free, compassionate, friendly, focused, self-controlled, satisfied, cheerful, fearless, trusting, fulfilled, grateful
The nature of the mind is inherently sattvic, but negative thoughts and emotions can tip the mind out of balance and send sattva packing. Naysayers around us or stressful situations can also chase sattva away. To keep a steady level of sattva, we can perform self-care actions and eat sattvic foods.
Oh, Behave! Actions that will increase sattva.
To increase sattva is to increase health and vitality.
- Eat foods that are organic, fresh, and as little-processed as possible
- Be in nature – get outside
- Be honest – tell the truth in a non-hurtful manner
- Be of service: volunteer, help your neighbor, send good vibes, smile at someone
- Breathing techniques
- Journaling can help “get it out” and calm the mind
- Have a regular schedule; live in harmony with the days and seasons
- Enjoy activities and environments that are uplifting and fun
- Spend time with a beloved pet
- Gently steer thoughts in a positive direction; look for the good in people and situations
- Spend time with positive people
- Laugh – watch a good comedy, be silly, see the light side of life
- Express joy wherever it can be found
- Meditation – very key for sattva (pick a flavor and go with it)
Food can increase sattva too!
A sattvic diet is made up of pure foods that give us energy, peace, and clarity. Our minds as well as our bodies are influenced by our food choices. A sattvic meal is made from unprocessed, natural ingredients. It is eaten freshly cooked, sitting down. The food is taken in moderation, chewed well, and enjoyed. The meal is easily digested and leaves you feeling light, energized, and content.
- Ghee (clarified butter)
- Milk, yogurt
- Honey, molasses, maple syrup
- Nuts and seeds (cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)
- Whole grains (barley, millet, wheat, oats, brown rice, quinoa)
- Legumes (lentils, chickpeas)
- Fresh, ripe fruits (apples, pears, plums, peaches, apricots, mangos, figs, avocados)
- Fresh vegetables that grow above ground (green leafy vegetables and seeded vegetables like cucumber and squash)
- Spices that are not too stimulating (coriander, pepper, turmeric, cumin, parsley and salt in moderation)
Choose what to consume, mind and body.
We are influenced by so many things. Colors, the weather, witnessing someone’s creative endeavors. Thoughts and foods. The entertainment we choose to consume can greatly influence our minds.
If my mind focuses on the good stuff, I do better. Good memories, lovely days. We can turn our attention to what is going right.
It is important, however, to remember that bright-side mindset can get toxic. We need to acknowledge, even welcome, all of our emotions, not just the “good” ones. We have to digest our experiences just as much as we do our food. Go through it and then come out on the other side looking for the good. Remember past successes.
We must trust ourselves. Keep our own counsel. Sattvic activities and thoughts will help us do so.
Next up: rajas and tamas. Bad? Or simply misunderstood?
Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, 2018. Practical Ayurveda. Penguin Random House, New York.