March 19, 2013.
There is a wonderful practice in yoga that is a simple and direct way to keep our minds calm and our hearts open. It is called pratipaksha bhavana. It means to make an unpleasant or unwanted thought or attitude into the opposite. With that yogic mental tool, we can take thoughts that prey on our minds and turn them in a different direction, a positive direction.
How often during the day do unwanted thoughts or feelings pop up to disturb your calm? Some days there might be too many to count!
When we are aware of these unfavorable attitudes before they manifest as word or action, we retain the power to reverse them.
Do you feel fear? Cultivate courage. Anger? Cultivate love. Try substituting not just a word but the whole scene or action in a mental movie. Imagine you are in the midst of a heated discussion with your spouse when, from another room, you hear your sweet baby cooing. Chances are, as soon as you hear the first sound from the baby, your mind and heart will leave the disagreement; and your anger will melt away as your heart opens to your child. Remember this and put the memory to use. The next time you feel annoyed with anyone, invoke an image like the face of a sweet baby–or, perhaps, a budding flower or brilliant sun or any image that you love. The person you thought worthy of your discontent may suddenly appear more vulnerable, more worthy of love instead of anger as you feel more loving. The best part is that you both reap the benefits.
A Meditation to Change Your Attitude
Think of the quality that you would like to invite into your life. A simple one or two word phrase is best. It could be “peace,” “joy,” “cooperation,” “adaptability,” or anything positive you want to bring into your life.
Bring forth an aspect of yourself that no longer fosters the person you want to be. Can you tell where in your body it is stored? If possible, put a name to it: “self-righteousness,” “stubbornness,” “anger,” etc.
Now choose a quality that you would like to send out to the world. It could be the same as or a different one than you chose to bring into your life. Begin to take in and release deep, full breaths.
As you breathe in, allow the mind and heart to integrate the positive quality into your being. Feel it infusing each cell and circling the place where you were holding the negative. Allow the unwanted feeling to dissipate. (Just imagine it dissipating; don’t “breathe it out.”) As you breathe out, let that positive quality transform every disturbance into something positive (like peace) and send it as your wish for the world.
It is fun to watch the unwanted qualities or thoughts dissolve and transform into positive! It’s healing for the world, for those around you, and, even more, for yourself.
Photo Credit: Anita Patterson at morguefile.com