Sutra 2.33 and 2.34: Pratipaksha Bhavana
"Make sure your worst enemy doesn't live between your two ears"
-- Laird Hamilton
The transformation of negative thoughts into more helpful and compassionate responses. This sutra reminds us of the absolute power of our thoughts, and the countless story lines we tell ourselves over and over again. We recycle about 90% of our thoughts throughout the day. What story lines are you repeating over and over again? Do you rise in the morning and think what magic will unfold for me today? Or are you stuck in the doldrums of a hellish groundhog day? The practice of taking negative thoughts and reframing them with more positive and helpful thoughts is Pratipaksha Bhavana.
From Patanjali's Yoga Sutra's this is:
2.33 When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of. This is Pratipaksha Bhavana.
2.34 When negative thoughts or acts such as violence and so on are caused to be done, or even approved of, whether incited by greed, anger, or infatuation, whether indulged in with mild, medium, or extreme intensity, they are based on ignorance and bring certain pain. Reflecting thus is also Pratipaksha Bhavana.
The key is that the source of pain or suffering that emanates from negative thought patterns is ignorance. Patanjali is reminding us to look within and inquire. Please don't confuse this sutra with the idea of suppression of negative thoughts. It is okay for us to have them, this is a human reaction after-all. The call to action here is to notice when that negative thought pattern has taken over, and then start to practice creating a more helpful and compassionate life-story. There are three steps to work through this sutra, as shared with me by my teacher, Rosie Acosta, in turn I will share with you below. You can also listen to Rosie's full podcast on the topic (episode #79) by clicking here:
1. Recognize your thoughts and where they are taking you! First observe and notice how this thought or storyline makes you feel. Don't accept all of your thoughts as fact. Recognize this may be an unchecked storyline, and start to get curious about why you are telling yourself that story.
2. Relax the body with some mindful rounds of breath! The body, when in this negative cycle, starts to mirror a flight or fight response, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in telling you to harden and run for cover, this is most often an unconscious behavior sparked by ignorance. Start with the breath. Take a deep breath in. Positive. Take a long slow breath out. Let go of the negative. Aim for at least five rounds of breath.
3. Name a positive! Think about it. Pause. Notice. Now that you have some space from your subconscious thought patterns, think for a moment. What is good and true in this moment right now? If you are having a tough time coming up with something, it could be as simple as telling yourself that you are safe. You are here. You are trying. You are alive. You are enough.