Each of the three Ayurvedic doshas come with with their own predominant mental qualities. Vata, made of air and space, brings creativity and intuition. Pitta, that is predominantly the fire element, comes with intensity and passion. Kapha which is earth and water, carries a predisposition towards love and peacefulness.
When in balance, these qualities can serve us well, and support our dharma, or purpose and chosen work. When they are pulled out of their natural state of balance, these same qualities can manifest in a negative way and harm our inner well-being.
Vata, when out of balance, creates scattered-ness, overwhelm, and anxiety. Vata people get pulled into future possibilities and lose touch with the present. Kapha imbalance manifests as attachment, mental heaviness and being stuck in the past. Pitta, when heightened, leads to fiery qualities like anger, an over-critical mind and explosive emotions.
Let’s talk more about Pitta. The qualities of Pitta are strong in our world right now. Being fiery, passionate, and competitive gets you places. If you can sacrifice all else to meet an improbable (and usually unbalanced) goal, you are considered a hero. Pittas are touted as examples of how we should all be. Highly -productive. Single-minded. Quick. Action-oriented.
Yes, these are all good qualities, but they must be tempered with the opposite qualities to stay balanced. Leave a pitta unchecked, and you have a forest fire! Imbalanced Pitta minds do more harm than good. They become over-controlling, attached to their strong opinions, judgemental, and critical of others. They anger quickly and have trouble controlling their sharp tongues.
So much of the conflict we are seeing in our communities stems from this untempered pitta. Attachment to one way of seeing a subject, and the inability to be flexible or accepting of other ways is a product of the bull-headed pitta way. Imbalanced pittas simply believe they know best, and need to have things their way. Another characteristic of pitta is to explode outward. Where a vata will make themselves internally weak with anxiety, or a kapha may withdraw and feel depressed, a pitta will attack the people around them when in a state of agitation. Their uncontrolled sharp speech can wreak havoc on their relationships, and damage long-cultivated friendships in a short moment. Out-of-balance Pittas lose friends and make enemies easily.
Okay, you say, we get it, so whats the solution?
Well, simply understanding this concept of the qualities is a great start. In Ayurveda, correct understanding comes before all other actions. Now we can start looking at the qualities inherent in each of our actions, and be more discerning in what we choose. When we notice hot and sharp qualities of pitta accumulating in us, we can balance with the opposite qualities of cool, soft and soothing.
Hot sauce and spicy food, coffee, alcohol, red meat...these are all heating foods. Cucumber, greens, lentils, unripened cheese, and fresh sweet fruits are examples of cooling foods. Competitive sports and hot yoga are pitta increasing exercises because they cultivate more hot and sharp qualities. Forest walks and ocean swims are pitta reducing workouts because they promote peaceful, cool and grounded qualities. Working 16 hours a day is pitta. Making time for rest, some play and a meal with your family will balance this pitta. Challenging your mind with information and puzzles will sharpen your mental pitta knives. Doing some seva (selfless service or volunteer work) or cuddling a baby will cultivate a soft, heart-centred qualities to balance it.
I know this is not the usual approach to conflict-resolution, especially in the western paradigm. Yet, it has been understood by the masters of Ayurveda, thousands of years ago, that every little thing we do contributes to our physical and mental health, and that these 2 aspects in us are deeply connected. Cultivating a more peaceful physiology will lead to a more peaceful state of mind, and vice-versa. This starts with understanding ourselves and our innate tendencies first, and then choosing the right actions to stay in balance.
It is up to each of us to take responsibility for our pitta and the disharmony that it can cause both within us, and the world around us. Let's cultivate the positive aspects of pitta by tempering it with all the compassion and love that it needs to stay balanced.