A holistic approach to mental health care


What Ayurveda taught me about my mind, and how to care for it

You may have heard the energies of the mind - tamas, rajas and sattva - described as a river. 

When the water is murky and stagnant (tamas) it’s impossible to understand what’s at the bottom. When the river has a strong current and splashes about with many turns (rajas) one can’t fathom the depth of the river. When the river is still and the water is clear (sattva), then we are wise to its depth, width, and the beauty that exists inside of it.

Direct experience is the greatest teacher

It was my direct experience of the mahagunas of tamas, rajas, and sattva that allowed me to make choices to shift my state of physical and mental health.

Like many who first come to Ayurveda, I was drawn to identifying with ‘my’ dosha. Self-diagnosing as predominantly ‘kapha’, I naively went on to justify tendencies I had based on a one-dimensional understanding of Ayurveda. We all start somewhere! 

When I came to study Ayurveda with Hale Pule, I completed a wellness questionnaire in preparation for an Ayurvedic consultation. That process alone was eye-opening. I uncovered and reflected on aspects of my diet, lifestyle, and mindset.

The impact of extremes

It became clear to me that the high and low extremes I cycled between correlated with the tamas and rajas lifestyle choices. This affected my work, relationships, physical stamina, and my internal dialogue. I championed the active, extraverted me and when I felt a drop coming I would become a recluse.  I even had two wardrobes to represent each character.

This breakthrough in the understanding of tamas and rajas wasn’t intellectual. It was experiential. Working on Hale Pule’s farm on Kaua’i I was immersed in nature each day, mostly in silence. I rose at 4:30 a.m. for spiritual practices and ate three freshly prepared Ayurvedic meals. 

Equally as important is what was left out - caffeine, excessively spicy, salty, and sour foods, rajasic conversation, and even music. I experienced life without tamasic habits like sleeping in, overeating and spending excessive time on social media.

Although my schedule was busy, spaciousness prevailed. I found clarity. Sweetness. Sensual receptivity. Creativity.

Today, understanding the mahagunas empowers me to care for my own mental health.

Ayurveda teaches us the natural law of cause and effect. I know if I do something, I’ll get a certain result now or later. What goes up must come down. I have found the true depth of life and connection to be in the middle.

If you’d like to learn more about how the mahagunas determine your mental health, check out this episode of the Everday Ayurveda & Yoga at Hale Pule podcast.

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