Pratipaksha Bhavana - Cultivating a Better Way

I continue to journey through the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as themes for my yoga classes, and today, we arrive at Sutra 1.33. Here is a translation by Nischala Joy Devi that I like very much:

"When presented with disquieting thoughts or feelings,
cultivate an opposite, elevated attitude.
This is Pratipaksha Bhavana."

This is both a beautiful and challenging practice - but it is one that has the potential to change the world. At the very least, it can shift the energies in our immediate life, by enabling us to choose to see the light that is absent in the darkness, and the goodness that resides in the essence of every person, opportunity, and experience we are presented with.

As Nischala Joy Devi notes, in her wonderfully transformative interpretation of the Sutras, The Secret Power of Yoga, Pratipaksha Bhavana it is a personal practice that "helps to change my attitude rather than hoping to change the situation or the people who 'cause me' to be unhappy."

From her writings, I offer this excerpt for further reflection:

"Pratipaksha offers the option of cultivating the opposite thoughts, feelings, and actions. Bhavana is the Sanskrit root of our English verb 'to be.' Together they encourage us to reverse our attitude, to embrace a noble way of being...

With clarity we realize that changing the situation may not be possible; rather we see that changing our attitude allows peace to bloom."

When we change our ways of seeing - we sow the seeds for changing our very being...

"Pratipaksha Bhavana is a simple and direct way of keeping our minds calm and our hearts open...

Do you feel fear? Cultivate courage. Anger? Cultivate love. Try substituting not just a word but a whole scene or action...The next time you feel annoyed...invoke an image like the face of your sweet baby, or perhaps a budding flower or a brilliant sunset."

Nischala Joy Devi suggests sitting in meditation and imagining a quality that we would like to invite into our lives, and then, to send it out into the world. She shares a beautiful story of working with someone who did not like her. Every day she imagined this person as a holy person and she visualized garlands around the figure's neck, and every time she passed this particular individual, she sent prayers. In time, the whole dynamic between them shifted and blossomed into a friendship.

A couple of weeks ago, when I sat in darshan with Mother Meera, I was inspired to ask that she intercede for such a person in my life, and to enable me to change the climate of things between us. And then yesterday, I made a silent "inventory" of the few relationships in my life I wanted to shift before any of us passed on, and decided to include them in my daily meditations.

Today, I give intent to continue to shift the energies in my life and take deeper refuge in the Divine's embrace, through the practice of Pratikasha Bhavana.


Nathan Jagan said…
I was seeking clarification on"pratpaksha Bhavana" and this enlightened me, thanks.
Olga Rasmussen said…
Glad it was helpful to you! Blessings!
Stephanie said…
Hi Olga, Nice post. I think it's sutra 2.33.

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