Mindfulosophy and the Gunas

The basic structure or visualization of Mindfulosophy is that we want to reach awareness about three parameters: Tempo, temperature and terrain.

Tempo concerns the speed with which we “answer” the world. The “world” is here taken in a very broad sense. It includes: questions we get from others, just communication from others, just others, situations, “problems”, inner questions, situations, emotions.

Temperature concerns how hot or cool we are towards all the above mentioned factors. Are we starting an inner forest fire, are we hot, smoldering, or just cool and relaxed about it?

Terrain is a question of knowing where we (our thoughts and words) are coming from. Just as we reach into our pantry to take something out from diverse jars — sugar, rice, salt, etc. — we reach into different parts of ourselves (diverse inner “jars”) before speaking or writing. Can we see and survey this terrain?

All this is a formulation or model I came up with after much activity with informal philosophical cafées, meetings and workshops.

This might feel new and strange, but it can be connected to age-old Eastern thinking. I recently saw the model’s connection with the yogic concept of the Gunas.

This is my understanding of them: Sattva is the pure, light, calm mode. Rajas concerns activity, eagerness and action. Tamas is sleep; heavy, lazy, dumb.

The goal of all my parameters, I now see, is (rather obviously) to approach Sattva. And the Indian model can help us to do it. Here is how I think we can get closer to Sattva.

We want to avoid being stuck in both Tamas and Rajas.

To get out of Tamas (laziness, sleepiness, old routines) we need to go to Rajas and DO something. Break the non-momentum of Tamas. This by giving Tamas as little time as possible.

You wake up and want to snooze in bed. This is perfectly in order at times, but if you want to move towards Sattva, listen to the voice of Rajas (“Rise and shine!”) and get out of bed the very moment you hear that voice.

You need to do the dishes, take out the garbage, make that uncomfortable phone call, write that letter you’ve been delaying for months, start putting your New Year’s Promise into reality. Don’t delay, act NOW. Listen to the (small) Rajasic voice, it’s a bit like Benjamin Cricket in Pinocchio, and don’t listen to the sneaky, foxy voices of Gideon and Honest John (also called Foulfellow) who want to lure you to Pleasure (Tamas) Island.

Come with us and be as slack as you want!

“See and do” as a wise friend once advised me. See the need, and immediately act on it. Don’t delay or procrastinate.

To get out of Rajas on the other hand — too much heated, rushing, overeager activity — you need to enlist Sattva itself. If Rajas is the gas pedal, Sattva can be the brake.

So STOP! Stop your eager, ants in the pants, busybody self; take a step back, slow down and zoom out from your urge for action. Ponder the word, the situation. Count to ten. Say “Hmm…”. This leads to a calm passivity that is philosophic, even wise.

The lazy passivity of Tamas can be seen as the opposite pole to Sattva (passive in a different way), while the fiery, action-oriented (“In Action we trust!”), always busy energy of Rajas is the middle position.

Rajas, rightly applied, helps against Tamas and is much needed in many situation, but is no universal solution. It also needs to be reigned in.

Also, while the danger of Tamas (laziness) is well understood, the danger of Rajas is less so, especially in our modern, action-oriented, multi-tasking, stressed out Western society.

The parameters of Mindfulosophy (tempo, temperature, terrain) all aim to get to a state of Sattva; calm, awake, sober, benign clarity, while interacting with others. (Mindfulosophy is a form of conversation.)

A final comment: What we think of as war, people oppressing, shooting and killing each other, is a case of partners in crime. Tamasic ignorance-stupidity and Rajasic violence supplementing each other.

Sattva is needed for peace. One could even say that it is a synonym of peace.