The Yoga Sutras are the Psych 101 book of the Yoga world. It is one of the first systemizations of Yoga practice. The Sutras were compiled by the legendary sage, Patanjali around 2500 years ago. Within these 'threads' of wisdom lies a deeper layer of Yoga practice beyond posture and movement. In fact, asana, or the postural practices of Yoga are only mentioned once or twice in the entire text. Instead, the Sutras focus on the expanding of consciousness, stilling the mind and Self-Realization. These things may in some ways seem abstract or unattainable, however, the Sutras are a practical guide book of sorts to help one navigate the inner landscape of the mind, in the hopes that we may free ourselves from it's control and merge with our true nature.
All of that sounds great right? A little, "grab me some palo santo and let's hop on the bliss train", but great all the same. I mean who doesn't want to turn off or silence, the, at times, jerk in our head that judges, quantifies, and analyzes everything we or anybody else does that derails from it's own ease and comfort?
Individually, there are many Sutras one could practice that would improve their Life, or at least their understanding of it. One of these is Sutra 2:33 Vitarka-badhane Praktipaksha Bhavanam, or "When one is disturbed by doubtful or oppressive thoughts or feelings, cultivate the opposite mental attitude." Often this is practiced in meditation by inhaling and bringing a positive quality to mind followed by an exhale and release out it's opposite. This is a powerful practice that can help clear and pacify the mind, diminish our tendencies to react, and cultivate the ability to be present with our thoughts. It's one thing to pratice this when you are on a cushion in a tranquil setting, but how can we bring these practices out of the zendos and meditation halls and into our daily lives and relationships? How can we, like brave little Bodhisattvas, compassionately face the darker parts of ourselves so that we may share ourselves with Life more fully and authentically?
This is a big field to navigate, so here are just 2 imple ways you can bring the practice of Praktipaksha Bhavana into your daily life....
1.) When you notice a piece of trash on the ground, pick it up rather than ignore it
Often we see some trash or litter on the ground we are in a hurry to get somewhere, occupied in some way or simply ignore it all together. To practice Praktipaksha Bhavanam here, we acknowledge the thought or conditioning of ignoring the trash or thinking its not worth our time, and then pause and pick it up. It that moment we are repattering our habitual response. The more we practice this the less time it takes to begin to notice ourselves bypassing trash and eventually will become second nature.
2.) When you think someone is interesting, your stuck with a stranger in an elevator or you pass a person by on the street,etc..., say , " Hello."
It's really hard to connect with strangers, especially in this day in age when we are so glued to our screens. The less time we spend socially the more introverted and isolated we can become. Anxiety is a real challenge for many folks when relating with other people. Over time we can become like an Ostrich with it's head in the sand; moving from activity to activity in our lives on autopilot, avoiding any interactions that challenge our fear, anxieties or agenda. On the other hand, we may begin to lean into our discomfort, anxieties and fears and reach out to others. Here, Praktipaksha Bahavanam could look like slowing down and acknowledging all the other humans beans around u and reaching out when we feel it, rather than looking down while hurrying to the next thing on your schedule.
These are just two tiny ways you can begin to shift your perspective in your day to day and overtime in your entire Life. Experiment with this in your free time and you might be amazed how these practices will bolster your mood and overall well-being.
HOPE TO SEE YOU ON THE MAT!!!