Continuing on our journey through the yogic approach to food, consider the third guna – raja. Remember that savta is quiet, knowing awareness. Tama is lethargy and sloth – slow and perhaps a bit stupid. Raja is energetic in a stimulant sort of way. Rajasic food is food that pulls you out of your quiet center by stimulating the vrttis. These urges disturb the meditation and your quiet awareness. Examples of rajasic food are coffee, tea, chocolate, overly salty, and extremely spicy foods. Ginger is rajasic. Garlic and onion are also considered rajasic. Wait a minute. Weren’t those tamasic? Well they slow the mind but also rev up desires in the body. So they could fit in both categories.
In reviewing the list, you may see some real favorites. My book was written in coffee shops near the smell of the espresso and ginger is part of my daily Mean Green smoothie. Becoming aware of foods that are rajasic does not necessarily mean leaving them all behind. Adding some rajasic foods to the diet may help vegans deal with cold weather in a better way and may aid those who are going through a tamasic mood.
Being aware of this type of food does give a way to fine tune the diet for better health, more serenity, and a quieter mind. Most of our “problems” in life can be seen as poor reactions to things that happen. Things happen and we can choose only our reactions. Who can deny that some people are serene or unflappable in their reactions. Can you imagine the Dalai Lama on the golf course throwing a club into the water in anger over a bad slice? Part of the reason he is unflappable is his mind is quiet and this allows him to truly “choose” his reaction to life. In fact he does not see himself as “reacting” to life at all but as completely at one with it. That life is living him. This sort of quiet mind is cultivated through yoga and meditation. Meditative efforts can be supported by lessening the amounts of rajasic and tamasic foods in the diet. Dickens had Ebeneezer Scrooge say it this way:
“Because,” said Scrooge, “a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”
Remember our friend in the picture? The big guy? Not only is he feeling sluggish from tamasic food, he is feeling antsy from rajasic food. He just can’t win. And his friends at the diners and truck stops and fast food joints won’t let him. Welcome to food Vegas where the odds are rigged and the house always wins!!!