1. A WHOLESOME DIET
Most people who go on a diet do it because they want to lose weight, or get rid of an annoying skin problem or a disease. But a special diet adopted for these reasons may neither be very beneficial nor procure lasting benefits. Unconsciously you may have linked this diet, however good it may be, with something you fear. Every time you eat, your brain and digestive system produce ‘chemicals of fear’ that act as suppressants of digestion, assimilation and elimination. You are actually afraid of the diet and your body will treat the food you eat as if it were an antigen (a foreign agent that needs to be destroyed). This may lead to food intolerance and even to allergic reactions.
Nevertheless, you can change the reasons why you want to lose weight or help a physical problem. One of the most important steps in this regard is to make improved well-being your Number One motivation for introducing a healthy diet and regimen. What your body is really after is happiness. Happiness can be created by any activity, including eating food. Learn to make the eating process a means to increase happiness in your life and begin to introduce those foods in your diet that are particularly pure and able to enhance your impulse to evolve; Ayurveda calls them sattvic foods.
Sattva, Rajas and Tamas – Three Principal Forces of Life
Sattva is one of the three principal forces or gunas behind every phenomenon and activity in life. With regard to human life, Sattva motivates us to grow, expand, progress and evolve spiritually, mentally and physically, and to find our higher purpose. Like everything in the universe, Sattva has its exact opposite, Tamas, which forces us to stay where we are. Tamas is the force that retards progress, causes stagnation and tempts us to hold on to past events and outdated beliefs. The third force, called Rajas, serves as a neutral link between Sattva and Tamas. Rajas urges us to act, take initiative, move and change, regardless of the direction, outcome or purpose.
All these three qualities are present in everyone and, depending on one’s diet, lifestyle, thoughts, emotions and behavior, expressed in various degrees and intensities. The following are some characteristic descriptions of each guna.
A Sattvic person favors progress above everything else. He derives great pleasure from being creative and innovative. He has a deep respect for life and nature and he always seeks a healthy and life-supportive environment. Sattvic people naturally have healthy habits and prefer pure and energizing foods.
A Rajasic person favors action for action’s sake, regardless of whether it is good for him or not. He has an inner urge to move, overwork his mind and body, be impulsive and impatient and look for an outlet for his nervous creativity. Rajasic people seem to have endless energy and are very extrovert. They prefer stimulating foods and drinks.
A Tamasic person does not want to change and prefers everything to stay as it is. His inactive mind finds comfort in set routines and accustomed environments. Tamasic people tend to dwell on the past and try to avoid the present and future. They rarely develop new ideas or habits in life.
The three gunas, Rajas, Sattva, and Tamas, are mental qualities that correspond to the three physical doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Ayurveda had a clear understanding about mind/body medicine when it linked basic mental impulses to specific physical conditions, tendencies and disorders. It also categorized foods according to their effects on the mind.
Sattvic food is wholesome whereas rajasic and tamasic foods are unwholesome. Charaka, one of the founders of Ayurvedic Medicine, said thousands of years ago: “The body is constituted of food. Wholesome food is one of the causes for the growth of living beings and unwholesome food is one of the causes for the growth of diseases.” In other words, if we want to progress in life, become vital and healthy and live in harmony with the laws of nature, we need to adopt a sattvic diet. Particularly those who would like to enhance their spiritual growth can benefit greatly from a sattvic diet. The following lists give you an idea about the different effects that food can have on body and mind. The quotations, which explain the three types of diet, are taken from the Bhagavad Gita, a 5,000-year-old scripture that narrates in detail the interplay of the three gunas in a person who treads the spiritual path and reaches spiritual enlightenment.
The Sattvic Diet
“Sattvic diet is that which is unctuous, pleasing to the heart and mind, which stabilizes the body and gives long life, strength and health to the mind and body. A sattvic diet promotes happiness and love for all creatures.” (Bhagavad Gita)
Sattvic diet is sweet in taste, light, unctuous (liquid containing), and cooling (versus heating like in chilli, alcohol etc.). Sattvic foods include:
- Breast milk (for babies)
- Ghee(clarified butter)
- Basmati rice
- Yellow mung beans
- Freshly cooked vegetables
- Ripened fruits
- Sesame seeds
- Rock salt or real sea salt
- Sesame oil
- Fresh spring water
Any food that has a soothing effect and is digested easily is sattvic by nature, provided we eat it in moderation. Please note: If any of the above foods do not pass the Kinesiology muscle test, they are not fresh, harvested too early, too old, contain harmful chemicals from fertilization, are gassed to preserve them for longer periods, or have been combined with unwholesome foods or ingredients. You may also check with the list of foods for specific body types, which will help you find out what kinds of fruits, vegetables etc. are sattvic for you. Ayurveda considers the sattvic diet to be the most suitable for promoting strength, vitality, a strong mind and lasting good moods, youthfulness and longevity. By beginning to include sattvic foods in your diet, unwholesome habits, addictions and ill health will gradually disappear.
The Rajasic Diet
“A Rajasic diet is that which brings unhappiness, sorrow and disease. It contains mostly the pungent, sour and salty tastes, and it is too hot, sharp and dry, and causes burning sensation” (Bhagavad Gita).
The Rajasic diet is too spicy, strong tasting (like cheese) and includes foods that have a heating effect such as chilli, garlic, onions, pepper, tomatoes, cheese (aged, salted), ripe eggplants, some pulses, meat, fish, sea food, eggs, alcohol, tea, coffee, cigarettes, sugary foods, soft drinks, crisps and similar junk foods. If you are continuously attracted to these or similar foods, it indicates that there may already be a physical or emotional imbalance.
The Tamasic Diet
“Tamasic diet is that which is stored and spoiled, which is without taste and has a bad smell; also leftovers, and food which does not look appealing” (Bhagavad Gita).
Tamasic food is heavy, cold, dry, tasteless, decayed, spoiled, frozen or cooked in the microwave oven. People who do not mind eating tamasic foods are already controlled by the dulling influence of tamas, thus they are insensitive to purity and refined values. Poisoned by tamas and unable to appreciate pure foods and drinks such as water,tamasic people seem to be able to eat almost anything without a problem. Such people are likely to develop life-threatening diseases at some point in their lives.
2. THE POWER OF THOUGHT
A Change of Thoughts
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 of thought can have a similar effect. Remember how good you felt when someone close to you told you how much he or she loved you or cared about you. By contrast, try to imagine how you would feel if your best friend turned around and told you how much they despised you. A little piece of information can be enough to change your entire life. If you don’t like the way you live your life at this moment you can change its course by taking a new decision right now. Take a few minutes to become clear about what you want out of life and then decide to achieve it.
If you face a major problem in life for which there doesn’t seem to be a solution, you may feel that your whole world is collapsing. But if you could see yourself ten years from now and looked back in time, you would realize that life didn’t stop after all. By simply moving your attention away from what is not possible to what is possible, you will be back on track. It’s as easy as that. Whenever you are facing a serious problem in life, go through the following simple steps which are designed to take you into a more positive and constructive space than you are in right now:
- Think of any one thing or person that makes you feel good. Begin to realize how important this one thing or person is for you and how fortunate you are to have it or them in your life.
- Think of all the people who are not as fortunate as you are, like the homeless, sick and starving.
- Imagine how you would feel if you fulfilled your heart’s desire(s).
- What would you do as a first step towards achieving your goal?
One of the main reasons we attract problems into our lives is because we don’t do what makes us happy. We send out negative messages by saying: “I wish I didn’t have to work so hard”, “How in the world did I deserve this?” or “Life is a struggle!” Your life, and that includes the current condition of your body and mind, is the product of your thoughts and feelings. Thoughts influence everything far or near, material or non-material. If you want to examine what kind of thoughts you had yesterday, then look at your body today. If you want to know what your body is going to be like tomorrow, look at the thoughts you are having today. Every movement and activity in your body and mind is controlled or matched by the corresponding neurotransmitters. Not a single idea, desire, feeling, like, dislike understanding or misunderstanding can go through your mind without creating corresponding physical counterparts.
Happiness – Your Key to Nature’s Drug Store
Your brain is capable of manufacturing any drug that could possibly be made anywhere in the world, provided it receives the ‘go ahead’ signal from you, its master. The brain requires neither a sophisticated chemical laboratory nor much time to develop the most exquisite drugs for any type of physical or mental problem. With the few types of natural food ingredients mentioned above, it makes neuropeptides and related chemicals for every condition you could possibly develop.
For example, if you suffer from pain, your brain makes endorphins and enkephalines, morphine type compounds that are at least 40,000 times more powerful than the strongest heroin. If you injured yourself and your brain didn’t instantly produce these drugs, you would not be able to endure the pain and would faint or go insane quickly. Since endorphins are also related to the experience of pleasure, you will make more of these drugs when you find joy in what you are doing. People who suffer from emotional pain soon begin to have physical pain, too; their brains are inhibited from making adequate amounts of painkillers.
If your body signals ‘cancer’, your brain synthesizes anti-cancer drugs or immune-stimulants that boost your immune system to take care of the problem before you even know it. Each day, millions of our body cells mutate and become cancerous but our immune system deals with them instantly and without the help of chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. We do not have to concern ourselves with the millions of new cancer cells each day unless, of course, our body fails to destroy them. Cancer is the physical counterpart of an unbalanced emotion that contains a clear message: “There is an antagonistic element in your life which is wasting away your body.” This foreign element can be low self-worth, repressed emotions, a negative outlook on one’s life, an unexpressed or unfulfilled desire, defensive responses to a hostile partner or environment, or an unbalanced diet. Usually, there is a combination of factors. Instead of trying to cut out this foreign element, you can learn from it and transform it for your own good.
We generally tend to blame heart attacks, cancer, osteoporosis, AIDS, etc. for causing most deaths in the world as if these diseases were powerful monsters that are out to destroy life indiscriminately. Only a few of the people afflicted with a serious illness question why they manifested it in the first place. Instead of deciding to put all your energy and effort into a particular problem, which tends to escalate it, you can direct your attention towards what you feel could contribute to your happiness. Make happiness your motivation and goal. Always seek happiness as the reward for your actions and the rest follows automatically. Wherever there is happiness, there are solutions and wherever there is unhappiness, there are problems.
Energy Follows Thought
Energy follows thought is an excellent phrase to remember. Do not waste your energy on a disease, on a difficult partnership, on your financial troubles or on an annoying neighbor. You are practically feeding these problems with your energy and thus will maintain or even worsen them. This may give you the illusion that they are real. When you analyze all the solution to problems worldwide, they have never been found by dwelling on the problem. Conflicts, wars, economic struggles, disasters, etc. ended when the involved groups or people began to focus their attention on what was possible rather than what was impossible. We always have the choice and freedom either to argue over who or what is responsible for our problems or to look for real solutions. There is no need to know what causes the darkness of the night when we know that there will be a dawn of a new day.
You may remember how downcast you were when your life was in a state of crisis and how remote and insignificant that problem became a while later. A problem begins to dissipate when we take our attention away from it. For example, if you suffer from a sleeping problem, instead of worrying over the fact that you cannot sleep, you could bring your attention to your breathing or think of things or people who bring you happiness. Suddenly you will find that insomnia isn’t so bad after all, and then you will drift off naturally. Should the problem persist, use it as an opportunity to take a closer look at your life. If you are not happy at night times, it indicates that you have not been happy during the day either. Use the insomnia to find out what doesn’t make you happy in life and then think about how you can change it.
You may decide that you want a better job that inspires and fulfills you more. Be daring when it comes to fulfilling your sire but do not admit defeat before even trying. The argument that you may not be competent or clever enough for a better job is illusory. You will always be good enough for a job you feel attracted to as long as you focus on it. If you keep telling yourself that you are not good enough, you have created the exact limitations that will keep you there until you come up with the courage to say that you deserve much better.
We let ourselves be so easily persuaded to believe that it is another person, society, the government or even destiny that holds us back from achieving our dreams. But it is only our limited thinking that keeps us confined to failure or lack of success. The old saying “where there is a will, there is a way” is a law that holds true for everyone under any circumstance. The three P’s, Patience, Persistence and Perseverance, have been the dominating qualities that have helped transform common people into the most successful and pioneering personalities the world has ever seen. It was Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of a better society that propelled him to endure the difficulties of his life. Stephen Hawking became one the most brilliant physicists in the world despite his total speech deficiency and paralysis. Instead of dwelling on his incapacitating disease or feeling sorry for himself, he made an enormous contribution towards understanding and utilizing the most fundamental laws of nature.
The greatest athletes of the world have had their fair share of major difficulties before they managed to rise to the op. Most famous artists and musicians had to go through periods of failure and rejection before they were acknowledged to be among the best. Many of the truly successful people share one common principle of living: they want to be more and more creative because they know that being creative is the only source of happiness. We all share the same infinite potential that creates and maintains the entire universe. What makes the biggest difference between people is that some have decided to use their potential and apply the three P’s in their life, whereas others have not. You, too, can make that decision. You can make it right now! All it needs is a shift of attention.
This is an excerpt from my book IT’S TIME TO COME ALIVE
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