Everyone knows how quickly the weather can change. The bright, sunny and blue sky can turn dark, cloudy and grey with very little, or no notice.
Just like the unpredictable weather outside, we experience some pretty quirky weather conditions inside our own minds. These are our moods that come and go at whim.
Your upbeat and cheerful mood at the beginning of the day can change in an instant. Maybe someone tells you something you don’t want to hear, or you get stuck in traffic, or you miss your train to work.
Sometimes, your private weather conditions can be disturbed by something even smaller like arriving at the coffee shop and finding out that they have run out of your favourite flavor of muffins.
We can never predict how we will be feeling at any given moment
The Three Moods of the Mind
Vedanta explains that everything in nature is made up of a combination of three essential qualities. In Sanskrit, they are called: sattva, rajas and tamas.
Each person’s mind is a unique combination of sattva, rajas and tamas. They express as the moods of the mind. These moods in turn determine the type of thoughts we entertain.
When one mood predominates, the other two yield to its influence.
This can be easily illustrated with an everyday example—Think of a large triangular scarf that is draped over a round table, where the three points hang over the edges. When you pull any one of the points, the other two overhangs naturally become shorter.
Sattva is the highest mood of the mind. It is characterized by clarity in thinking, goodness and purity.
When sattva predominates, it expresses as inspiration, creativity, mindfulness, concentration, patience, fairness, forgiveness, forbearance, kindness, cheerfulness, optimism and unconditional love.
When rajas predominates, we feel eager to get up and keep busy doing something. Rajas is characterized by activity, desires, passion, ambition, dynamism, stress, worry impatience, haste, anger, greed, and indulgence.
Tamas is the lowest mood of the mind. It is characterized by dullness, laziness, sleepiness, lack of energy, boredom, procrastination, apathy, resistance to thinking and change, tendency to react versus respond, carelessness, forgetfulness, and depression.
All three moods are important to our lives. We would not be able to know anything without sattva, do anything without rajas; or rest and sleep without tamas.
However, aside from their usefulness in some situations, our moods often overwhelm us and we get sucked into their control.
Where moods come from
Many times, our moods can change for no apparent reason. For instance, you may be sitting down calmly doing your work with full attention when suddenly, you feel lazy and decide that you can’t be bothered to carry on. Or, a wave of worry or uneasiness suddenly sweeps over you.
Why do these seemingly random moods appear?
What we think about, and how we think leave subtle impressions in our subconscious. These subtle impressions sprout likes seeds in due time, and cause us to repeat those thoughts in the future. So, when we are suddenly overcome by a certain mood, it’s because the old impressions are manifesting. We begin to repeat the moods and the thoughts we have felt before.
Mastering the Moods
Understanding the moods of the mind will help us know what to do to master them.
If we were to compare them to the strings of a guitar, loose strings would represent tamas; very tight strings would be rajas, while strings that are just right would be sattva.
We need to learn how to recognize the moods, and tighten the ‘strings’ if they are too loose, or loosen them if they are too tight, so that we can attain the calm balance of sattva.
So, for instance, if you recognize a tamasic mood of laziness or procrastination, you could overcome it by getting up and doing something active that will uplift your spirits.
On the other hand, if you are experiencing stress, worry and haste (rajas), take a few deep breaths, slow down and become mindful of what you are doing. This will help take your mind into a calmer, more sattvic mood. In my article, 4 Tips for a positive mind, I share ways to transcend rajas.
Rajasic tendencies are not always negative. Rajas-prompted desires and activities can be useful if they are directed by noble (sattvic) goals. These express as selfless actions done for the benefit of others. There is no selfish desire for any specific result.
Sattva is the Goal
Anytime sattva is consciously brought into the mind, it trains it to become quiet, alert and peaceful. And with this, there is less rajas and tamas. (Remember the example of the triangular scarf above.)
My article, 10 Keys to Self-Transformation describes ten ways we can make our minds more sattvic.
Just like the perfectly-tuned strings of a guitar from which beautiful tones arise, a sattvic mind brings out the noble qualities that are lying dormant within us and make our lives more harmonious and peaceful.
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