The Bhagavad Gita describes thee types of challenge that we might face in our everyday lives. The easiest challenge is sattvic in nature, like smoke obscuring the light of a fire. A simple wave of your hand will vanquish it, or you can simply blow on it to reveal the truth hidden within. A sattvic challenge is pure and simple.
An everyday sattvic challenge
When I was very young, my mother taught me how to iron clothes. This was before synthetics, so everything was made from cotton, wool, or linen, only natural fibers, which were great to wear, but they all needed ironing. So our first task, my sister and me, was to go to each bedroom and collect empty hangers.
Now hangers have this weird shape, with this hook at one end, poised to catch onto things. Inevitably the hangers would become all tangled together. They drove my mother mad. She would vigorously shake one free, and sometimes it would come free and sometimes it wouldn’t. Those hangers were her nemesis. We would stand and watch her struggle and curse, and we absorbed that hatred of hanger tangles.
As an adult, I went through the same ritual that I’d been taught as a child. On ironing day, I’d go collect all of the empty hangers and put them in a neat pile and use them one by one, but no matter how careful I was, they’d become tangled and I’d eventually be standing there shaking this snarled mass of hangers.
And then one day I noticed that I wasn’t really feeling any frustration during my ritual hanger tussle. I was just standing there shaking the hangers and snarling, because that’s what I’d been taught. So I stopped. I realized that the hangers had formed a puzzle, and that if I turned this one this way, and looped that one under that way, they’d come untangled, and I’d be left with a lone, free hanger. I realized that the hanger hatred belonged only to my mom. Hanger tangles weren’t mine to hate.
And just like that, I blew away the smoke that concealed the hidden fire.
A sattvic challenge is pure, calm, and clear. You can vanquish it if you face it with pure, calm, clear energy.
If only all of our challenges were sattvic. . .