Sutra 2.33: When presented with disquieting thoughts or feelings, cultivate an opposite, elevated attitude. This is pratipaksha bhavana.
Interpretation by Nischala Joy Devi
Pratipaksha bhavana is a practice of internal change. The way it’s written in the sutras, the instruction may sound a little flippant.
Don’t like what you’re thinking? Well just change it then!
Um, not helpful!
But in truth, you do have the power to make this kind of change, and it can be that simple, even though it won’t always feel simple.
Change is in our make up. Evolution might be called nothing but a progression of mistakes put to use for survival, and changing our minds, bodies, and selves requires more or less the same test-it-out-and-see process.
Does that make change easy? Hardly.
Sometimes it’s simple and goes smoothly. Sometimes it’s not and it doesn’t. But I find the most reliable way to change something is to go about it in what might at first appear a roundabout fashion.
Got mental stress? Move your body.
Got physical strain? Deepen your breath.
Got your body and your breath moving but not feeling much? Pause. Reconnect to the power of thought.
The connection of the mind, body, and breath isn’t revolutionary, but that doesn’t make it any less profound. Shift one, and at least one of the others is bound to do something in response, if not directly follow.
The next time you’re finding it difficult to change a negative thought into a positive one, try taking 2-10 deep breaths and then try again.
Or move around and change your point of view, literally. Lifting my head to look out the window at the birds flapping in the pool of rain-water on top of my neighbor’s roof always puts a smile on my face. And from there, it just feels easier to let the smile feed my thoughts –and even sit a little taller.
Practicing pratipaksha bhavana can come about in the most unusual ways. Try not to overthink it. If your strategy works and helps you to feel peace, joy, or love when you need to, go with it, all in!