Shift your thoughts, Shift your life!
Vitarka Bādhane pratipaksa Bhāvanam
When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of. This is Pratipaksa bhāvanam.
How can a 4,000 year old text transform your life today? What lessons can we learn from this powerful book called the Yoga Sutras?
The Yoga sutras is a collection of 196 Sanskrit aphorisms on the theory of Yoga. Its enigmatic author, the great sage Patanjali, writes concisely about the Yogic teachings on ethics, meditation, and physical postures. It is a philosophical Yogic guidebook for dealing with daily life, proven quite useful even in modern times. Though much has changed in 4,000 years, the basic foundations for a balanced, healthy life remain the same.
There is one Sutra in particular that is especially needed during these trying times. It is found in Chapter 2., the Sādhana Pāda.. Sutra 2.33 addresses transmuting toxic thoughts, emotions and negativity into uplifting, happy positive thoughts. It calls for a shift in mindset toward gratitude and happiness, rather than linger in negativity. Patanjali offers insights on how to navigate through life's daily conflict with grace. Mastery of the mind, is mastery over emotions....which is the key to the mastery of life.
Sutra 2.33 has perhaps been the most profound teaching for me. It is an opportunity to freely live my best life. Shifting from negative thoughts and patterns to positive ones, has brought much joy and ease into my life. It has improved my own health and the health of my relationships with the outside world too! It is a tool that I implement often when dealing with depression and defeatist emotions. It is truly amazing how my quality of life has soared, even in the grimmest of situations.
As a two time Cancer survivor and childhood trauma survivor, life has not always been easy. After long periods of suffering and turmoil, it has been challenging to process all the emotions that accompany the effects and after effects of such events. This particular Yoga sutra reminds me to shift out of harmful, pessimistic beliefs and aids to navigate me through challenges with focus and freedom.
Forgiveness is a great liberator and doorway to implement this Sutra during times of injustice and social unrest. When we can control the situation, we must control our response in order to make the affective, needed changes. When we are no longer attached to potentially destructive feelings like anger, hate or vengeance, we discover our power to choose serenity. When we are calm, we are more receptive to discover a better resolution. This power diffuses the darkness, so we can see the light and opportunities that lay ahead. We can transform our irrational thoughts before they cause permanent wounds. Harbouring vengeful thoughts is more harmful to us than the act of revenge would be to our said enemy.
Whatever it is that hurt us has most likely passed and is unchangeable. We can not change the past but we could create a new future and new choices. Long after a toxic event occurs, we often hold on the damaging, energetic charge. We replay the movie in our heads and constantly revive the distressing response in our minds and bodies. We invoke the charge of the poisonous trauma each time we tell the story. Overtime, the repetitive harbouring of negative thoughts and emotions is detrimental to us and those around us.
It is said we only hold emotions in the brain for 90 seconds! It is only the memory of that emotion which conjures up that bleakness in our soul which ultimately breeds bitterness and disdain. Though we can not change the actual event, we can chose to begin the healing process. We can implement the teachings of the Sutras to create a vehicle of change within ourselves and alter our response to stress.
Mastery of the emotions allows us great freedom. After all, we are not our thoughts, but our thoughts can shape who are we and potentially how our life evolves. Holding on to negative charges in our energetic field brings “dis-ease” to the mind, body and spirit. It profoundly affects us physiologically and may even cause premature death.
Believing in your right to choose your own healing response , without exception, is life altering. This profound shift in perception is good medicine. It has been pivotal for my healing process. It is not to say we should avoid expressing grief, sadness or distress but rather learn to come back to our natural cycle of contentment Joy is our right!
I no longer allow anger, worry or fear overtake me. I can simply let it arise, sit with it and transmute it. Though not an easy task, I allow the emotion to come up yet refrain from an impulsive reaction. I examine the thought behind it and think in terms of, “will this matter in 6 months, one year or 12 years from now? Life is sort, so why choose the pain? I release the attachment and shift to a happier thought. That is what this Sutra instructs. To think upon the positive, to reconnect to that ever accessible, innate sense of contentment. We can begin by ejecting our selves or our emotions out of the toxic situation or thought pattern. I find that going for a walk, changing the environment or invoking thoughts of gratitude, helps prevent any negative triggers from hanging around. It takes time, but with practice we can shift our thoughts and change our perspective to invite more abundance in our lives.
Sutra 2.33 has carried me through years of numerous surgeries, gruelling treatments and Chemotherapy sessions. Instead of choosing to feel fear of death, helplessness or anger at the Cancer, I choose to simply live in grace! Rather than think about the dying process, I made the shift to focus on living fully and wholesomely! I mean feeling gratitude for each breath, each moment, painful, blissful or otherwise! The good, the bad, the ugly! A deep cultivation of unfounded gratitude for just existing is a start! No judgments or expectations. I mindfully began to enjoy each moment as it unfolded, savouring each little breath of my every moment here on earth!
As my healing continues, this sutra directs me to choose joy ! It’s challenging at times and no one is perfect, but it is now my daily practice. I challenge you to read this sutra and give it a try in your daily life. It is a lovely reminder that life is precious, under any circumstance, how we live it is ultimately up to us. The power is ours, our potential is unlimited!