By Natalie Wohlstadter
Reflecting on my interesting choice of hotels while making a stop over on my way to my brothers wedding in California, I sit comfortably in a cold air conditioned room inside the oldest Hotel Casino in Boulder City, Nevada while outside feels as if you were standing inside an Air Frier of 100+ degree winds. For me, such a place feels foreign and unnatural as I don't usually frequent Casinos. In fact this is the very first time I have stepped foot inside of one. New experiences, such as these offer a potent opportunity to reflect on what we can learn using the lens of ancient Ayurvedic wisdom.
If we are truly “spiritual” beings, yogis, or following the teachings of Ayurveda, we can easily step into the chaotic world and retain our peace, equanimity of mind, and clarity of spirit.
With my yoga matt and luggage I slowly and somewhat skeptically enter the Casino Hotel for the night. Blasted with cool air at the doorway, a security guard takes my temperature while I am bombarded with flashing lights in a dark dungeon-like atmosphere with every individual totally absorbed into their games. Without like or dislike, judgement or criticism,
I begin to witness my environment, through an Ayurvedic lens of Gunas, or qualities.
According to Ayurveda, we have three predominant gunas, or qualities that color our mind-
Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.
Everyone comes into this world with a mind that is Sattvic- pure, clear, light, meditative, and peaceful. As we travel through life, this Sattvic state of mind quickly becomes influenced, or tarnished by our environment, relationships, behavioral patterns and conditioning.
The society in which most of us are born and live in is predominantly Rajasic- active, mobile, frenetic. Rajas effects the mind by making it driven, goal oriented, passionate, opinionated, aggressive, emotional, and the like. The environment we are in, and the choices that we make in each moment directly effects the state of our mind. While Sattva is a state of mind that is more balanced and harmonious, Rajas is considered a Dosha, meaning a “fault” or, in this context, a divergence from the original purity and peace of mind.
The third Guna (quality) of the mind, and second Dosha (vitiating fault) that effects the mind is Tamas- darkness, lethargy, stagnation, cloudyness, confusion, inertia and sleep. The world we live in is mostly influenced by Rajas and Tamas, and less influenced by the purity of Sattva because it easier for the mind to travel to heavier, darker states of mind then travel upwards towards the light of Sattva.
To travel upwards towards Sattva takes conscious work, effort and willpower- and who wants to do that?
Each individual moves from Sattva to Rajas to Tamas many times throughout the day, which is necessary for our healthy physical and mental functioning. As Sattva helps us wake up and find clarity, peace and joy, Rajas helps us get things done and achieve our daily tasks, while Tamas helps us rest, relax, and sleep. So we need all of these qualities, and each one has a distinct place and purpose.
Seeing my present environment through the lens of the Gunas- the hotel casino embodies Tamas with the dark rooms are conducive for the mind to enter darker states and behaviors of drinking, smoking, and gambling. While Rajas appears through the flashing lights and spinning wheels churning the senses towards craving, desire, and addiction for more. If I spend most of my time in such a dark room, with flashing lights, and people absorbed in games— soon my mind will reflect my environment and will become dark, dull, addicted, possessed with craving and desire for more distractions. Trying to cultivate Sattva in such an environment is challenging.
Try practicing yoga or meditation in a Casino versus a quiet Ashram or Temple in Nature- its quite different!
No matter what special Siddhi, or special spiritual power you possess, Ayurveda teaches that we are not separate from our environment. Regardless of the type of environment you find yourself in, it will eventually effect the gunas of your mind. So however hard we might try to transcend the vibrations of our current environment, our mental and emotional state will eventually become colored by it. Therefore we must develop Sattvic states of being everyday so that wherever we go we will bring the peace and clarity of Sattva with us.
If you want to become more peaceful in your everyday life you must establishing daily practices to uplift your body and mind to higher states of awareness of Sattva.
The ancient sister sciences of Yoga and Ayurveda teach us that through regular practice of yoga, meditation, proper diet and lifestyle we can begin to orient ourselves towards a more Sattvic way of being, which in effect strengthens our resilience in approaching difficult and challenging environments, relationships or condition with ease, softness, compassion, and clarity. We can use the tools of Ayurveda and Yoga to empower ourselves with the armor of Sattva when walking into any difficult situation. We can retain our peace while radiating that peace to those around us. So the saying “be the change you want to see in the world” is rooted in the idea that if we make a daily conscious effort to uplift our mind through proper habits, rituals, and routines we can definitely shift or mental state from Rajas and Tamas towards Sattva.
If we cultivate Sattva, and live from that place of purity, love, and compassion we will begin to radiate that energy into our environment, and effectively influence the world around us.