The Bhagavad Gita is a short story expressing Hindu philosophy and one of the ancient foundational texts of the religion. It expresses the Samkhya philosophy upon which Patanjali’s yoga is based, that the fundamental essence of things is a mixture of three characteristics: Sattva (air, reflection), Rajas (fire, activity), and Tamas (earth, inertia). You might recognize this as the basis of an Ayurveda diet (see Deepak Chopra). So you can consider yourself to be more often Rajasic, or Tamasic, or Sattvic – busy and can’t stand still, lazy and hard to get going, or accommodating and uncertain. And as you sit to meditate you may find the same typical difficulty faces you accordingly. So let me talk about how a rajasic person might overcome the obstacle in order to meditate. In that case, consider, what would you rather be doing this evening rather than sitting and waiting to go to sleep? Maybe watch TV, read a book, go for a walk, talk with friends, a hobby, exercise, shopping, cleaning, or (my favorite) organizing. In order to meditate more fully, we need to be done with all these things.
As the Tao Te Ching 38 says, “doing nothing, yet nothing undone”. We will never get to the bottom of our to do list so we have to decide this is “done enough” for now. Meditation practice is when we can strengthen our resolve and ability to set things aside for now. This is khanti, the highest virtue we can cultivate according to Buddha (khanti paramam tapo titikkha), translated as patience, forbearance, or persistence. I think for a rajasic person it’s patience and for a tamasic person it’s perseverance. While we sit, a rajasic person may be struggling to remain still without thinking of all the things worthy of thinking, and thereby can’t settle down. Whereas a tamasic person might be slowly sinking into sleep and will need to continue bringing their attention back to center over and over again, persevering. And one last thought, we can’t always force our self to meditate. That’s good initially, but eventually we have to let go the effort of that force. Practically that means we have to be free to choose to meditate without any “because I should”. A simple parallel reveals how we miss this so much. Many dog owners control their dog with a leash so they don’t run away, act aggressive, etc. But that’s not dog training because the dog has no choice when being controlled. Dog trainers tell you that you have to give them the choice and reward them when they choose correctly. After some time, the leash is only used to communicate the command not to enforce control. Can we do that with our own mind? I think it naturally happens when we start to crave meditation just simply because it’s so good.