I know, I know, I keep coming back to Ayurveda but its like finding a master set of keys to all the doors. I’ve been noticing how the three fundamental dosha types (those three constitutions that people can be loosely grouped into, according to Ayurveda) apply to all things, from lifestyle choices and social behaviours, to all those emotional, physical and energetic traits that profoundly impact our wellbeing.
In particular, I’ve been noticing how the doshas rub along together in their relationships (inside and out) and these are some of the astonishingly consistent observations I’ve been making. The scope of this topic is relative to all levels of human existence, from the cellular right up to the political and beyond; which is how core the material feels and how universal the trends I am noticing seem to be, making them relevant and useful across all aspects of human existence.
First to remind you that, though there are three dosha-types, we each tend to have one or two dominant doshas; though the ideal is to have a balance of all three. Some people (and I’m one of them) have one very dominant dosha…mine is vata. Where there are two at play, a sort of hybrid response can occur in certain situations, depending on the nature of “provocation”. It can become a bit like one of those three-way friendships (the ones they say never work) as two doshas “gang up” together leaving one out in the cold and yet the true opportunity for personal, and wider, evolution comes when that third dosha is worked with, and integrated, in a whole new way…perhaps by newly appreciating the circumstance that they set in motion. What I am explaining here will become more coherent as I start to use some real-life examples.
Worth noting is how some of our (over) reactions to a particular dosha can be learned behaviours based on fear yet when we look beyond the fear (as in all aspects of life) we find some transformational gifts awaiting us.
My observations have been made all the easier because I am an extreme vata with a dash of pitta as my very secondary dosha and a sorry lack of kapha, which I suspect is the root of my ungroundedness. For fun, I then live with one kapha (with secondary pitta) and one pitta (with secondary vata), a circumstance which throws up some very interesting scenarios. However, my thoughts here take into consideration a much broader stock of social, familial and anecdotal experience (a whole lifetime’s worth) freshly scrutised through the eyes of Ayurveda.
The harmony of two – the so-called ideal partnership
Vata and kapha work extremely well together and it is often considered the relationship match with the highest potential. This is because kapha offers the grounding element that vata so desperately needs and vata can inspire, uplift and lighten kapha without causing any collateral damage…in other words, no one gets burned! Complementary doshas like this can gravitate towards each other, especially if the “missing” dosha is present as the secondary dosha in each case, running like a sort of balancing factor beneath the surface of their mutually beneficial relationship based on stability. There are plenty of articles out there about relationships seen through the eyes of Ayurevedic doshas and how they interact together.
Now there are three…from crisis to rebirth-potential
Of course, there are three doshas…and we have been entrained to think of three as a crowd, but is it really? Perhaps it takes three to make anything happen; and something happening is far better than stagnation. Family life (and life in general) frequently provoke us into taking this broader persepctive in order to concile the times when a third element “comes in” to rock our boat.
For instance, to a kapha-vata combo, a pitta factor running under the surface, embodied by a minor dosha, a third party or even a pitta-themed situation, can be fun, invigorating, exciting and transformational, helping to keep life interesting. When it comes on stronger than that, it can be like a detonator going off. Family life, seen through Ayurvedic eyes, can be a most insightful thing, offering levels of understanding that spiral out into the world at large, as I have discovered may times. To illustrate what I have noticed, I’m going to outline a typical scenario; which is an interaction between the three doshas in a (could be) family or even a social or political setting. The traits I describe are what I have observed by studying people that I know with these doshas balances.
I have observed many times how a fiery pitta personality (especially one with a fair share of vata, making them….I suppose you could call it…fairly highly strung) will go relentlessly, dogmatically, after whatever it is that they think they so urgently need. In fact, there’s nothing more relentless than a pitta-type going after what they want, whether that is a “thing” or an injustice they want setting straight. It is, after all, the dosha of transformation and of reaching for ever more more more. They might seek this thing that they need, at first, from the airy vata source…after all, the vata is an open system and what they have to offer is often laid out freely for all to take a handful of (more on that later). However, the vata will also withdraw their energy from a situation where they are being grabbed at, even if that also means withdrawing their energy from their own body, resulting in their health crashing as they become even more ungrounded. Think of someone burning all their own food supplies rather than letting an invader help themselves and you have the classic response of a vata to any kind of aggressor making demands on what they have.
So the pitta who wants something might turn to the much more solid and grounded kapha, who is like a fortress built of clay bricks; solid, grounded, well served with plumbing and all the stored-up resources they need to live an earthly life. So the pitta-type might think they can prod prod prod to get whatever it is that they are after from the kapha, hammering at their door, provoking, cajoling, kicking for a response. Many kaphas can sustain this for some considerable time; but when there is a pitta-element lurking inside the kapha, the marauder at the door finds their match within the kapha walls and this is where the fun starts.
If that kapha has a sub-trait of pitta they may very likely respond to all the fiery provocation with some fire of their own. Like a dragon flicking its tongue to let out a few sparks, they retaliate with short sharp bursts of irritation, maybe sarcasm or even anger; no harm done and the flames quickly die down as the kapha is able to shovel sand and water on their own fires to keep them under control. However, if a note of resonance is stuck by any one of the fiery accusations thrown at them, that fire can turn inwards to be used as a detonator to blow apart their own solid walls right where they are most likely to hurt; inside their very sturdy belief systems.
Because a kapha is creature of routine; they like to plough the same furrow, to tend the same marks on their carefully sculptured landscape, to build their walls according to the same drawing plans time and time again. Sustaining those sturdy walls like a series of girders are a whole set of belief systems and some of them (held in a strong room at the very core) are the oldest, most defunct, distorted, even toxic beliefs of all…built into their cellular walls and used as the faulty blueprint of their very design. Though apparently pristine on the outside, their core might be held up by ideas about themselves that should never have been left there for so long; things that were said to them as a child or handed down through generations, cultural ideas that are tired and worn out yet hidden and out of obvious sight…most of the time. Really (though they may be in self-denial) every cell in the body reflects to the outside world what they really think about themselves at that core and if that pitta-thing that comes along to grill them happens to expose one of those faulty beliefs for them to clearly see, their hand is forced into collaboration. Before long, they start to actively feed parts of themselves (old emotional wounds, distorted viewpoints and all the ancient debris of lifetimes gone by) into the transformational fire that the pitta element has so conveniently brought to their door. The amount of old stuff that comes out of storage, once the lid is blown off, can be astonishing because some kapha-types carry a surplus of defunct emotional wounds and belief systems for the collective; so that they can transform it all at once. All those stale old belief systems seem to want to be fed into that fire now, and with urgency…so that they can be freed and transformed…so the momentum keeps building. Really, once the process really gets going, it can be like a well-aimed match thrown into a giant stash of dynamite going off at the foundation of a building – everything apparently implodes.
Before you know it, there is a pile of burned rubble and a very somber person sitting atop it where a very grounded and mild-mannered person use to be. This is because, though methodical and diligent at getting down to the task of transforming what is just useless garbage in their basement, a kapha can’t just let old emotions pass though their hands without engaging just a little and it becomes like pouring over a box of old photos from the attic; each one an emotional trigger that seems to bring an old wound alive. Meanwhile, faced with all this emotional debris from “the past” and with the whole orderly construct of their life in apparent disarray, they have a tendency to become depressed and lethargic. Their mojo is abruptly lost and so they sit atop the rubble of their life looking hopeless and dejected, wallowing in old emotional pain and ancient self-definitions; at least for a time…and this is, in fact, a very good reason for a mindfull pause (for the reason I will explain below), even if it looks like they have come to a complete standstill in their life.
The pitta-provocateur is, by then, sated and (especially if they have a vata element mixed in) somewhat mortified by the wholesale destruction they apparently set in motion. Their intention, after all, was only ever to transform a situation by saying their piece and getting something heavy to shift, to feel lighter and less stuck in its ways. Their whole project was fueled by a desire for more than was currently available; how can that be so wrong? They had no idea the solid and sturdy kapha could implode like that when pushed so relentlessly; they assumed they were more resilient than that. By now, they are probably feeling transformed by what played out; somehow, they feel better for venting their thoughts and reaching out for a new outcome even if the outcome looks messy. They actually feel more invigorated, even ecstatic, as though they know something new has just been born out of a stale old situation (and maybe it has in the long run). They may even thirst for more situations like this; it can become a lifestyle, even a career boon, to be one of those people that blow things apart and start again from the base-line. They hold on to the fact that there is a place for this energy in the world (and they are right…to a degree) even if it can look like an unholy mess when they go in so heavy-handed.
The vata-type who was here trying to encourage a peaceful outcome at the very beginning, and who (though witnessing it all) probably vacated their body just as soon as the situation got ugly, now comes back into themselves with a heavy thud to find the human nervous system they left behind, like a coat hanging on a peg, has inevitably become singed or somewhat tattered by all the goings-on. Though mentally or even emotionally less engaged, it can be hard for a vata to be around such shenanigans without physical consequences that are, often, more potent and debilitating afterwards (as a sort of shockwave comes into the space like a sonic boom) than any after-affects felt by the other parties. This is because they operate in the domain of vibration – and higher-vibration at that – so the inevitable heaviness of even the briefest conflict can tamper with all their subtle wiring. Like a light aircraft that is reliant on remarkably delicate controls flying through a violent hail storm, though they may eventually bring their plane down to the ground, it will have inevitably sustained some damage and may not be ready to fly again for some time. In other words, the vata is often the last person to recover, even though they were the least physically involved in the situation (something many people fail to understand about supersensitive vatas). Everyone is left licking their wounds and recalibrating for a time after the shock-waves of what took place but the overall outcome depends largely on how open each person is to the doshas they least embody; for it is in the aftermath that these can start to shape-shift into a new potential.
Out of the rubble: how to avoid repeating old mistakes
The pitta, as I have said, is usually the first to recover; having got what they want, fuel on their fire (and any excitement is almost better than nothing happening at all). The kapha’s recovery will largely depend on their relationship with vata; for they need to lighten up quickly now, to avoid rebuilding their walls to the same old pattern as the defunct old belief systems they were last seen shovelling onto the fire. If those belief systems are ingrained enough, it is quite possible that they will start to rebuild themselves to the same old plans anyway…and this can go on for generation after generation, one breakdown after another. In fact, more often than not, the kapha-type might rush to reconstruct everything to the exact same beliefs as before; only they are now even more entrenched, rigid and rigorously defended than ever. This is why a long-mindful pause is useful after such a breakdown…which is when vata comes in.
In blows vata…
Vata breezes in like a breath of fresh air, a broader perspective, a lightness of touch and an objectivity never experienced before. Being so ungrounded, vata brings in the non earth-based or, dare I say, “spiritual” perspective, where the petty issues of earth can be scoffed at as just that; petty. There is nothing territorial or routine about a vata’s perspective, nor do they hold with karma, victimhood, repeat patterns or blaming anyone for what happened. They consider belief systems to be far too limiting since they pin you right down to the ground and hold you there; where’s the joy in that.
When the kapha-type starts to see through vata eyes, they starts to notice how pitta may have done them a huge favour. Those old systems that just got tumbled might, otherwise, have taken years or whole lifetimes to dismantle; now they can let in more light, do things a whole different way. In other words, pitta has just fulfilled one of its primary roles; transformation. The kapha-type might start to see a glimmer of light and to feel lighter than expected, for all their belief systems and perhaps even the core structures of their life lie around them in apparent disarray.
Now to invite vata in…to fill up all those empty filing cabinets (where defunct old belief systems used to be stowed-away) with lightness and love, creativity and playfulness. A bit like an old building gutted by an unexpected fire, if the kapha has come to realise that “thoughts make our reality” (and their old thoughts really weren’t serving them) then a more vata-like perspective can be used to draft a brand new set of plans which look so much more like the original divine blueprint for who they really are, before life took its heavy toll.
Vata acts like the architect that comes into the purged structure and gets to redesign the space to make rooms that are full of light and with far better use of space and minimal and discrete storage (this being far less of a priority than it used to be…) to enhance a most beautiful and uplifting lifestyle.
How easy this is to achieve all depends on where the kapha-type has got to in their personal development journey. If they have been doing the work, embracing a lighter lifestyle, lighter thoughts, lighter diet and lighter perspective, it could be that having something blow apart the old physical design that no longer served them (whether at the cellular, circumstantial or whatever level) could be the best thing that ever happened to them; the very rebirth opportunity they were waiting for yet never really thought they would get in this lifetime. Its like getting to become a whole different kind of human being; a New Human, constructed using building blocks made of different material (lighter material), all the way down to the cells.
How do they do this? By bring light into all those spaces that are known to exist inside each and every cell of the body…that same void that once harboured emotional memory, trauma, all the pain of those defunct old belief systems. Filled with light, these begin to take on a whole different spin, a kind of neutrality or “unconditionality” that looks a lot like the unconditional love that is the primary building block of the universe (although we tend to forget about this when we get caught up in all the relentless gravitational pull of the earth). Out there, where nothing matters, only love exists and its time to bring that “vibe” down into the human body, where it gets to reside as the ultimate blueprint for our human design projects….whether cellular or political, its all the same. Since kapha maintains cell coherence and is the domain of blood, bone and sinew in the body, we all get to benefit from this new project as it gets rolled out and it starts to look a lot like ideal health. This “core” unconditionality will serve very well next time we are put under fire. Instead of defending rigid beliefs, we can simply open up all the spaces and say “come on in”; the fire will only ever transform from that point onwards since this physical structure is no longer deeply invested in material beliefs that are out of sync with expansion and light.
Building a new reality…to a divine blueprint
When we stop fighting what we believe we should resist and defending to the death what we consider to be rightfully “ours” but, rather, put our efforts into noticing sameness and the potential for collaboration, the walls that separate us start to soften and dissolve of their own accord, to be replaced with a soft membrane; the kind of communication interface which allows all parties to meet on equal terms, for everyone to have their needs met and for everyone to “win” (such as that concept needs to exist anymore). Instead of solid belief systems held under lock and key, and “opposing” parties battering down their doors while the most inspirational amongst us flee the scene in horror (back to the scenario I described above), we hold a steady vibration of love – which is the most universal thing going on in any given situation only, now, we quickly acknowledge this, making it a far easier conclusion to reach without all the drama. The only “hard” thing left, at this point, is something constructed according to a blueprint of unconditional love and an acceptance that we are all one and the same organism…whether that be a person’s body or a geo-political arrangement. In other words, our physical humanity reality starts to look a lot like the divine principle embodied in physical form; surely, the very leap in evolution that we are in the process of making happen right now, yes?
Put back into Ayurevedic terms, Kapha really comes into its own now as it is the world expert at building structures out of physical building blocks and now it really gets to shine. We never needed kapha more as we get to construct a whole new world according to higher principles. Meanwhile, vata is now enticed to hang around for much longer than ever before, as an embodied (and very crucial) aspect of the human experience; allowing the non-physical to merge with the physical in ways that are inspirational, life-enhancing and evolutionary. Pitta gets to focus upon being the transofrmational light that it most-naturally is, bridging the physical and non-physical aspects of each project and helping to birth them from blueprint into physical reality. The great hungry and determined catalyst that it is keeps things moving along at a pace and helps drive what might otherwise grow stagnant or, otherwise, not land into physical form at all. It becomes like the engine between two wheels; and things start moving along with such ease now as everything works together.
Understanding how all the doshas work together is part of all this ultimate teamwork and, for your own personal benefit, I strongly recommend getting to know each of them better for yourself so that you can work much more cloesly with them…within and without. It’s a case of seeing how it is not one dosha pitted against the other but a win-win for all when these three work closely yet fluidly, and receptively, together. As I say these words, I notice how I am playing with the triskele symbol that always hangs around my neck…a symbol that has had great significance for mankind since very ancient times. There is nothing more powerful or divine in our whole physical reality than this three-sided collaboration; you might want to term this threesome “expansion, light and harmony” or the holy trinity but this is the same foundation from which the three doshas arise….for all aspects of the universe fall into these three elements. It remind us that there is a relentless synergy going on, across all circumstances in the universe; a level of synergy that we are only just starting to fathom as human-beings though we will get there all the more quickly when we show willing to collaborate, and notice kinship, with whatever seem to be the most triggering and so-called oppositional factors in our experience, at all levels of life. Recognising how they are all, in fact, working together is a start. The triekele conveys a very simple yet important message; we need to keep all three aspects of creation spinning, at each level of our lives…that’s it, the secret to our very existence!
Recap – why does vata find embodiment so off-putting?
As I said above, the very pure vata-type, in contrast with a kapha, has no belief systems to speak of. There is no karma, no victimhood, no repeat pattern, none of it is anybody’s fault. This perspective doesn’t particularly encourage them to want to be here (in a world which diligently maintains all of these perspectives) unless, of course, life is particularly joyful and exquisite, which is what vata knows it to be at the most intrinsic level. Speaking as one who has become increasingly vata over the last decade (in tandem with my physical health becoming ever more of a challenge…) we have to feel enticed to land, like a butterfly is attracted by a very beautiful flower, or else we will tend to flit off somewhere else. For some, that means leaving embodiment altogether.
Therefore conflict and anger hit vata very hard; they provoke our energy to evacuate the body and temporarily flee from the scene, leaving behind us the flimsy shell of a very ungrounded person who struggles to engage with their physical life. Many of us can give the impression of “not really being at home” inside our human bodies…because we are not!
To a vata, freedom, flux, lightness and spontaneity are everything. The only point in life is to know the kind of pleasures that only a body can deliver; whether sensory pleasures that are enjoyed through the five senses (not available to us unless we sign-up for a human body) or the novelty of creating things far more painstakingly than we are used to doing using gravity and all these bizarrely challenging three-dimensional materials (yes, to a vata, earth is like some sort of experiential theme park where we get to play at doing things more slowly than usual). Also we came to know what it feels like to be an unlimited consciousness looking out through supposedly limited eyes in a relative world full of filtered perspectives; there can be a bizarre playfulness in sampling this as long as things are going pretty well and it doesn’t become too frustrating to our over-active minds or the fragility of our nerves. Kapha traits can make this highly ungrounded experience so much more comfortable for us so we tend to attach to more grounded people; and we work relatively hard at trying to ground ourselves into our bodies because we have to in order to survive.
Being all about dryness and desiccation, and if we are feeling grounded enough for the attempt, we often respond to provocation with extremely dry humour (a trait of mine…) which is about as pitta as we ever get since even our own anger burns us. On a more sturdy day, we might allow ourselves to know the exhilaration of supporting a particular cause, of putting up a bit of an argument with our opinions (though we are never fully invested in this since we already know that everything is perfect just the way it is and that life is all an illusion anyway). Even debate or lively discussion wrings us out…and yet, we know, to be grounded here, we need to be invested in at least a handful of earthy things; to put our roots down into the ground and care about how we are living. This is why the kind of spirituality that has people declaring they have no opinions or preferences anymore undermines them; if we are here we must be here or, really, what is the point of the whole experiment, which is to bring our highest expression into an individuated physical form. It’s a sign of a very ungrounded vata when matters of life and death no longer seem to register as important or interesting; and every extreme vata-type has a choice, at that point, to either leave altogether or to work on staying here fully attached to a body. A half-way place is a sickly, often self-absorbed and highly unsatisfactory one to be in; and not one I would recommend, which is why I work so hard to ground myself back into a body that is thriving and enjoying everything life has to offer. This is where a commitment to collaborate with the other doshas comes in as a saving grace for a vata; it can literally be a matter of survival to rebalance those doshas.
Its an out-of balance world…
As I’ve demonstrated, the world needs pitta but, as a vata, I know that a sudden, acute, experience of pitta…even just a very pitta-type personality stepping into a room with me (especially if I am particularly ungrounded) is enough to deplete me utterly. My cheeks burn, an inner fire seems to rise up like a torch, my mind etcha-sketches into brain fog and, within moments, I’m stifling teary yawns as though its the middle of the night. My emotions might be unmoved but my physical body takes the hit like someone siphoned all my battery power. The trigger in question doesn’t even have to be very triggering; they could be just an excited person or someone with a lot on their mind but that’s enough for me to read the needy signal and hand over everything I’ve got, in terms of energy, to their roaring fire and I am left utterly depleted of energy for myself.
Its one thing to encourage the healthy dosha that is pitta within our healthy bodies (we all need that) but there is a way in which we have started to over-emphasise pitta qualities in our world because we have become so fixated upon competing and wanting more. Pitta out of balance is aggressive, demanding, pushy and will go after what it wants at all costs.
The reaction I have around pitta-energies is an extreme one, I know, and yet it is one that I also experience around other manmade expressions of pitta such as wi-fi, EMFs, mobile phones, electricity pylons, spotlights, sugar, solar flares, high-octane films or television, spiteful behaviour and displays of aggression; all of which have much the same effect on me, they deplete me. This has taught me something significant about our out-of-balance world: pitta embodied by a human being *should* be mitigated by the other two doshas so that it never oversteps the mark. Pitta embodied by a whole way of life (rolled out so that it is almost universally unavoidable) and by every modern gizmo we have come to rely on is an out-of-control dosha in desperate need of pacifying. How do we pacify an out of balance dosha in our living circumstances? The only way is to opt out of certain aspects of that modern way of life, particulalrly those that exacerbate the imbalance. This, I know from experience, is far easier said than done.
This highly aggressive form of pitta seems to be a version that many of us adopt or cultivate in ourselves, especially as young adults going out into the world, since we perceive it to be a matter of survival to do so. My daughter observed to me how she feels she has to make herself “more pitta” just to get by at school surrounded by the relentless onslaught of peer pressure, teenage bitchiness, exam targets, career aspirations and all that. I can sense her revving this pitta aspect up before school starts at the end of the summer break. I can hardly criticise since I know I made myself very “artificially pitta” in my early adulthood by drinking too much, joining in with the bitchy behaviour of my peers, shopping to excess and consuming whatever came my way with hardly a thought for where it came from (none of these traits felt like “authentic me”; I felt like I was weeping inside this monstrous shell). In short, I entrained myself to gobble life up without taking the time to extract any of the “nutrients”; all I cared about was that I was seen to be behaving like everyone else. It’s that hard-faced kind of pitta that we put on like an armoured suit in order to behave like the herd and to face the hyper-critical and competitive world that we are forced to become part of morning after morning.
Described like this, pitta can seem like a vampirish response; the pitta fire needs more and more energy like a fire needs carbon fuel. I’ve already described some of the effects of this when that fuel is extracted from vata or kapha types. Its one thing for the fire of transformation to come along and work with the other doshas but when that fire is set upon consuming everything in its path, there’s an imperative to look at how to pacify any imbalances in our own field so that we can stay intact. The most sturdy we can be is when all three of our doshas are in equal proportion; although we may need to work on building up kapha and vata somewhat more than our pitta at times when the world we live in feels so out of its own balance. This is where being able to notice the clues becomes key to staying upright and, better still, thriving in spite of anything that is going on “out there”.
Why is it that a pitta-type’s need for more fuel on their fire seems to take priority over any energy requests that I might put in as a vata; even if I am more grounded (though that helps)? It’s because a vata is a completely open system; we aren’t just “like” the air and the wind, we are these things and just as fluid, without any solid boundaries. Anyone that wants a part of us just gets to put out a hand and they can have us…of that’s if we don’t do something to keep our own energy reserves intact.
As I’ve said, grounding helps a vata-type to stay embodied as it gives us a firm base to stand upon but there’s something else we need to do and its crucial if we are to stay here for the long term and really thrive. Whilst the earth is enough for the acorn to sprout its first attachment to the soil, it must then grow a sturdy tree trunk and swiftly, at that, before it can spread any branches and sustain itself in all elements. Only then can the package of potential that is the seeds call itself truly “of this earth”, sustained by it and independently able to withstand the demands of being a physical entity.
So to counter the effect of having their energy depleted, a vata-type must first learn how to ground…which they can do through diet and simple grounding practices like yoga, walking barefoot on the earth, mantra, connecting with nature and especially trees, following a vata-pacifying diet, cooking, being around people, engaging with aspects of life that are comforting and routine, finding interests that are methodical, useful and engaging, making things with our hands…and so on. Eventually, we will start to get a lot closer to kapha in out constitution; just as theirs start to get a lot closer to ours but until then, grouding takes effort (and its worth it).
Then that grounding practice needs to be taken to a whole other level; one where the energy requirements of the vata-type take priority over any other demands being made. This is not done by imposing sanctions, making threats or building concrete walls around the fuel-stash but through the setting of intentions; most importantly, a very firm and visual intention to gather and maintain a source of energy at the very core of our being which is exclusively available to our own biological system…at least to start with. By envisioning a self-replenishing column of white-light energy that runs from head to toe and which provides a ceaseless supply of energy for our own needs, we get to do hold such an energy source intact whilst demonstrating a “putting ourselves first” type of unconditional love that reaffirms how important our body is to us in literally every moment of every day. In other words, we become “love in action” and we radiate this message from our core; in fact, this message replenishes the energy source that we operate from. No longer the one receiving the scraps from our own table, the body starts to flower under the light of this new attention.
Meanwhile, any surplus energy that happens to fountain over the edges this central column of energy (and it will as it starts to flourish) is freely available to those who need it, turning us into a walking fountain of energy, even as we continue to serve our own needs (and the vata-type loves to give of themselves, which serves to engage them even further with life). This energy source shaped like a tree trunk at our core becomes like the tree of life; its many branches can only grow more abundant and diverse with each fresh new root sent down into the earth to support its ever more sturdy column. Meanwhile, its every-changing leaves continue to play out the dancing rhythms of the vata wind because a vata-type must always keep moving to be the gift that it is here to be. The vata-type continues to feel liberated, expressive, flux and all those other qualities that are so important to them, whilst being attached to the earth.
Come as you are: inviting spaciousness and air to the party
Here’s one of the challenges about being a vata: we really don’t like to be pinned down…and we know that we do far better, have so much more to offer…when we get to do things our own unfettered way. One issue that repeatedly comes up with the pitta-type in my household is that she tries to insist that I sit absolutely still and give her my full attention whenever she is talking to me (however inconvenient the timing may be); complete with rock-solid eye-contact and all the most enthusiastic noises whenever she tells me something she has done. For a vata, this amount of prescription is an absolute no-no and its not about indolence or a lack of interest in what she has to say. It’s about (actually) giving her the very best of what I’ve got…my most timely, intuitive, personal and appropriate responses, not just a mirror of how she wants or expects to hear me react. I felt so sure that there must be some science to ratify what I am saying here that I went off to look for it and found that there is. According to research presented at the British Association’s Festival of Science in Norwich, when a person looks off into middle space or focuses on a neutral object in the room rather than the eyes of the person who is talking to them, they are really concentrating the most fully and intuitively that they can, probably drawing on a broader field of information than words or facial expressions alone could provide. In fact, facial expressions etc. can be deeply distracting to some people (and I bet most of them are vata-types…). The same can be said of introverts, who frequently report that they struggle to hold eye-contact whilst deeply engaged in conversation or that they find eye-contact utterly exhausting. As both a vata and an introvert (I suspect these traits cross over more-often than not) I can agree with all of the above. Knowing our eyes to be “the windows to the soul”, perhaps we vatas have had to learn to guard access to our eyes as yet another outlet for energy syphoning in social situations. Whatever the reason, this is just the way vatas are made and I’m prepared to stand by it.
In short, just because other social niceties have established themselves as the currently dominant “rules” doesn’t mean that they necessarily suit us vatas. If we are going to take part more, we have to be allowed (but, most importantly, to allow ourselves, without apology) to do what feels comfortable, however much this may rub other people up the wrong way or break an established code of conduct. Allowing ourselves to be “just the way that we are” allows our social confidence to swell and we can then bring our gifts out more fully into the kind of social and collaborative settings that would normally have vata-types running to the hills. This, in turn, grounds us into an even more active part in “real life”; so we become more engaged with the rest of society. The world inevitably becomes lighter as we inject our perspective into the mix. Similar data is starting to come out, suggesting that introverts are a vastly underused resource and that the first step to encouraging them “out” is to stop expecting them to be like extroverts!
So, for the record, I can hold eye contact for a polite length of time much like the next person but don’t give me marks out of ten for sticking power or pulling the appropriate facial expressions. The more deep and interesting the conversation, the more likely my gaze will wander off into that middle distance as I tune into the etheric information I am drawing on (rather than concentrating on performing the learned set of responses that keep other people so tied-down to the ground). I’m also an animated fidgeter, a rhythmic foot tapper, a frequent changer of conversation direction and an expressive user of hands when I talk; in fact, I talk like a spider might weave a very complex web, diverting between so many loosely connected points that I seem to be going off all over the place, yet it all seems to come together with a beautiful kind of coherence in the end. These are all classic vata traits. When I am like this, it is a clue that I am fully relaxed and inspired and that I am being (and giving of) my most inspirational “best”. In fact, people who have grown to know and accept me “just as I am” tend to love and value these idiosyncratic traits; and, most of all, I have grown to love and accept them about myself. For the vata-type, this is yet another version of becoming more grounded since it is all about bringing vata skills “back” into the human domain where they can be made use of… hopefully, to the greater benefit of all.
Bringing it all together
I can’t help visualising kapha and vata as the two opposite sides of the yin-yang symbol; one (kapha) holding the light within their solid outside structure, the other (vata) suspending a coat of light on a (now) sturdy internal structure made up of good intentions (you could say, the intention to stay here embodying light within physical form whilst thriving). Both of them get to realise a sort of ideal physical state when they do it this way; but neither would get there without the catalyst that is pitta.
Because pitta is that all important missing link; the divine spark of creation. As with the positive effect the pitta fire can have when it comes to transmuting stuck-old paradigms, it can be the rocket launcher that takes those vata winds to a whole new height of (physical) realisation. Because it’s all very well being a vata-type flying around in an endless sea of inspiration…but grounding all this inspirational stuff into an actual, realisable project can be another matter altogether. Even making a simple decision – shall I go this way or that way? – can stall an extremely vata person until something provokes them into a stronger reaction than all the other choices on offer. That provocation often comes in the form of something pitta coming along to strike the first match.
Hot orangy-red flames when we think of pitta can be a problematic visualisation for some people; perhaps especially vata types, since it conjures up “destructive heat” more so than a “transformational catalyst”. If you are finding such an image a hindrance in your relationship with pitta, it might help to envision a different kind of flame; an emerald heart flame, for instance, or the transformational violet flame (a personal favourite), even the pure white flame of full-spectrum light that is the source of all. In this format, it is very easy to identify pitta as that original spark of desire that triggered the whole universe into existence; and it is no exaggeration to say that it really is that aspect, with all that divine potential to create or experience anything at its fingertips. Pitta makes anything possible; it bridges realities…traverses the gulf…joins the physical and non-physical realms together in such a way that pure alchemy occurs. It is that ultimate impulse to “know itself” and to “be” that came directly from Source at the birth of all creation; and we get to work with that aspect in our own bodies and in all our daily relationships when we embody pitta alongside our other doshas; how powerful is that?
Spark of creation – working powerfully with pitta
So sometimes – even when it feels quite harsh – I notice how a short-sharp burst of pitta is just what I needed to get me started; the trick is for it not to be too fiery, forceful or sustained (at least, not until I am feeling more grounded; though I notice how I am getting much better at coping around bursts of pitta these days). I can actually feel more invigorated for the experience of the kind of person or situation that drums up my energy or even the kind of solar flares that we’ve had this last week…they, literally, make me feel more alive since they draw me more fully into the experience of my body (assuming they don’t burn me to a cinder first). If there’s anything left of me after first contact has been made, these can be some of my most creative times since pitta can be the most remarkable catalyst, like a rocket launcher of desire, determination and vision. What’s more, pitta is the energy of digestion; it allows us to break down “what just happened” into its constituent parts and to take from it the most important and useful “nutrients” from which we learn even more about ourselves and life. Combined with vita’s super-analytical, mega cross-referencing mind, a great deal can be learned and taken forward from a timely brush with some serious pitta-energy. When we ground that new understanding in our bodies and our other worldly projects, using kapha’s building skills, there really is no limit.
Then, in collaboration with vata’s inspiration, absolute freedom of thought and ultimate playfulness, it can manifest some of the most forward reaching, innovative, transformational and courageous outcomes imaginable…just what the world needs right now. Thus we need ever more vata-types that are prepared not to shy away from working with their pitta counterparts; whether that is in collaboration with others of that dosha-type or through bringing these two attributes into a working partnership within themselves. Some of my own pitta qualities…excitement, courage, innovation and, yes, a touch of wicked humour…are the most powerful and life-affirming ones that I have up my sleeve and I can feel how they are on the rise now.
Getting out of fear (how to stop believing we are under attack)
Whenever I watch my own reaction to pitta these days, it emphasises something crucial about the relationship between all three doshas. No dosha-type “does anything to us”; there is no victimisation going on here, we are not being targeted by an assault from some outside entity, nor is a particular dosha “our enemy” or “bad for us”. If we have a strong reaction to one of the “other” dosha-types, for instance pitta, when it is embodied by another person or a situation, that reaction is not coming at us from an external source; what really happens is that our own energy field tunes into that pitta energy and our own internal pitta rises up to match and greet it. It’s like they are the radio station and we are the radio that voluntarily tunes in so we can receive the music we really long to hear; there is an active choice going on at a level we aren’t consciously party to. The more contact we have, the more we get to know that frequency like a memorised radio station on the dial (even if it seems to provoke us when we initially tune in; though what really provokes us is the alien reaction in our own body and our fear around what feels new or most challenging about that newness). For me, that newness presents as alarm if I encounter too much fire in my body…or even my temper…since this not typical “me”.
I’ve heard the same thing from kaphas who start to bring more vata into their experience; they feel, at first, alarmed by all the new hypersensitivity and ungrounded experiences they keep having, as though something is wrong when, really, this is just “normal” for a vata-type. The important thing to remember is that, combined with the other two doshas in healthy ratio, these “symptoms” and effects will never become a problem but the trick is to stay out of fear as the body adjusts. No need to rush to the doctors with a long list of foibles; simply allow that unconditional perspective to hold space in your cells and watch what unfolds with as much detached curiosity as you can muster. Vatas are extremely good at doing just that (calmly watching through a variety of weird and wonderful body symptoms) but kaphas and even pittas, being more embodied, are more prone to react as though something is going horribly wrong; so try not to. Allow your body the time to dial into the new vibe so that it can start to work with this in ways that will positively affect your biology and your whole experience of life.
This whole thread of thought could be a metaphor for modern life; we have become so fixated upon the idea of “being under attack” and this fear is played against us by those who would make us hand over our energy to their cause. What if we could start to live without the constant fear of harm being done to us by some “outside source”; how quickly would we thrive? I firmly believe it’s an inside job; the change has to start with our own mindset.
The perspective is remarkably similar to an article (below) that I was reading about viruses yesterday. New science suggests that viruses aren’t enemies to our health, to be fought off and destroyed at all costs, as we have traditionally thought. Rather, they only become active when our own bodies dial into them, causing certain biological features inside of us to actively collaborate with them. The health issues we have when a virus comes along might simply be as a result of our body’s attempt to grow stronger or make necessary changes in response to the new addition. So what if those changes are evolutionary; what if viruses are working with us, conferring health benefits, conveying much-needed information, supplying a missing link, an upgrade or an activation? This is all new and very maverick science by some people’s’ standards (my favourite kind!) though it is a close match with how I have recently tended worked with my own stage 4 Epstein Barr virus; allowing that it might be friend instead of foe and possibly the very best thing that ever happened to me, introducing me to the extreme yet rich and valuable experience of vata-dominance.
In fact, the stock description of how stage 4 Epstein Barr gets hold of the central nervous system, taking it over, and the equivalent description of the vyakti (manifestation) stage of disease in Ayureveda, in which the dominant dosha fully merges with the most appropriate tissues of the body (in the case of vata, this is the nervous system) are almost identical. Yet what if this stage in the proceedings isn’t such a tragedy…as long as you learn from it and then survive it? The beguiling thing about extreme vata is that it adds value to the experience of being human since it literally opens you up other dimensional experiences within an ordinary-everyday human life; you, quite literally, tune into more sensations and at a much broader level than you might otherwise encounter within life. Great! Then the key to grounding that experience back into life, where it might be most useful, is to want to come back into life even more fully than before; bringing those experiential gifts with you. This requires that you work at becoming less vata-dominant and much more balanced overall (yes, I’m working on it!) so that you get to stay here and thrive for many more years to come.
Balancing and thriving – a New Human experience
What I also notice is how this new science about viruses is such a close match to how our bodies dial into the doshas we most need to bring us into the kind of balance that we require for optimum health and wellbeing. We participate in this process more than we know; even when it feels as though we are being triggered to hell and back by a particular circumstance (you could say we agreed to it at a higher level…) When we start to work voluntarily with the doshas we don’t currently have “switched on” in our own constitution, I suspect that life stops throwing situations at us that provoke the necessary internal reactions required to achieve that ideal dosha balance. Perhaps now I’ve been introduced to the extreme end of vata, I no longer need EBV to be so active in my nervous system (and, this last month or so, it really hasn’t been very active at all). Perhaps now all I need to do is concentrate on bringing those other two doshas into more balance and harmony. Through diet, music, movement, warmth and spice, occasionally being around lively pitta-type people and the kind of situations that fire me up…etc. (since all aspects of life are rebalancing medicine in Ayureveda) I can comfortably drip feed more pitta into my life whilst working very concertedly to bring more kapha elements in to my life, and my body, through diet and grounding lifestyle choices. Certainly, the evidence of the last month has been that the more kapha I have introduced through dietary changes alone, the more pitta elements I can be around in my daily life; helping to transform and, in all the most positive ways, fire up my life. The insight my relationship with the three doshas is providing when it comes to the broader relationships and situations of my life is probably one of the most useful things I have ever come across as a practical tool for living amongst other people and understanding how they slot together (always a bewildering topic before). As for health, I am really starting to know what all three doshas feel like as internal aspects of my experience (and how to work them all together to achieve the highest outcomes for health), which is the ultimate objective of Ayureveda; not bad work given I only started looking into this modality less than a couple of months ago.
Final note – getting to know the different energy models
There is no right or wrong about the three dosha-types in an energy context (and really, everything in the universe is about energy). They are just different from each other in how they relate to energy.
My attempt at offering a simple analogy is as follows:
Kapha as a “type” tends to be like a coal seam; it can run deep with an energy store that is ancient and made up of layers of past experience, compressed and compounded into layers of solid matter (as is the earth).
Vata is the free-moving energy of the entire rest of the universe; energy that has not been tied down to anything of substance but which is as freely abundant as it is airy and space-dwelling.
Pitta being the “link” relies on energy to fuel all its projects but, as a consumer of energy, does not have its own supply as such yet plays a cricual part in catalysing the kind of relationships that move energy around between matter and non matter. Its interactions with kapha and vata can instigate the release of energy from where it is locked into form or encourage free-energy into a form-like structure; so it plays a very crucial role as it (in what can sometimes seem like a self-interested way) endlessly seeks the energy to keep its own fires burning.
Therefore pitta can encourage (or bully) vata to donate the energy of inspiration, lightness and wind…or can persuade (or drill and mine…) kapha to get to its stronghold of stored-up energy. Its the way that it goes about doing this that can make all the difference. Our terribly pitta consumer-driven world today cares-less about where it gets the energy from than the fact that the supply keeps on coming!
Vata and pitta together can form the foundation for a beautiful relationship…if pitta respects and understands the valuable inspiration, vision and limitless potential of the kind of energy that vata provides. When pitta listens to vata respectfully, vata helps to keep pitta’s projects focussed at the broadest level, beyond temporary or self-interested gain. Meanwhile, vata gets to collaborate with a kindred spirit when it comes to getting things done super-quickly and dynamically…favourite traits of the vata-type.
Kapha and pitta work well when they collaborate on their shared water-element to get into the steady flow together; and, if kept respectful, this route holds a brighter future for them than endlessly digging or drilling to get to old seams of carbon beneath Kapha’s top layer. It can be a hurtful and destructive relationship if pitta keeps mining those kapha seams of stored up energy without consideration for the damage that is being done to the source of those resources (the earth and water elements that kapha represents). On our planet, we see this play out as the relentless pursuit of carbon fuels (and the pollution of our water) to “feed” the hungry demands of a pitta culture gone mad.
When kapha works with vata, the combination of lightness with form can be a beautiful arrangement resultimg in some of the most inspired projects and at least cost to either of the parties. I tend to imagine a little kapha-guy with a very well-built house installing a vata wind turbine in his back yard. He now has a brand new source of clean energy available to him and can move his projects forwards, without having to dig up his own foundations to get at all the “old stuff” that has formed solid rock beneath his feet. Its a best of both words scenario (you could say, my favourite of them all).
Likewise, when vata works with kapha, the latter helps to ground the free and limitless source of energy that vata is into actual earth-projects that vata can enjoy taking part in. To me, that represents the best future for our planet…a sort of endlessly available clean-energy scenario made manifest as our highest collaborations with one another.
All three dosha-types together get to negotiate the most workable, respectful and evolved relationship with each other when pitta brings in the light of its wonderful vision, drive and ambition…at the same time as wanting anything but to undermine kapha (the earth and its water) or bring vata’s inspiration down into any kind of project that feels less than most divinely inspired. In this three-way partnership, we have the makings of endlessly free-flowing energy and the most uplifting kind of future for all.
I’m not ignoring you; I’m thinking – “Nature” Journal of Science
Why The Only Thing Influenza May Kill Is Germ Theory – Green Med Info