The practice of Pratipaksha bhavana is a simple one. Stop or discontinue negative thoughts by cultivating the opposite. If we think enough good thoughts, there will be no room for the bad!
Is the glass half full? Or is it half empty?
What better time than the holidays, when emotions can run ramped and we often have our blinders on, to put this practice into play?
Kevin Ochsner, who studies the neuroscience at Columbia University says, “Our emotional responses ultimately flow out of our appraisals of the world, and if we can shift those appraisals, we shift our emotional responses.”
This practice, like any other takes time. Through yoga we learn about our monkey brains and how they churn out thoughts faster than I churn ice cream in the summer. Becoming aware of these thoughts is the first step. When we start to consider why we have these thoughts and then try to see them from the other side is where the hard work begins.
When I first learned this philosophy, I was eager to put it into practice. At the time, I was just finishing up my 200 hour while working at a stressful job where I didn’t get along with the boss. (Never a good play.) I was spending a good portion of my day in a complete rage and I was deep enough into my 200 hour to know that’s not a good thing mentally or physically.
I decided every time I would get angry or upset, I would take a quick five-minute walk around the block with a co-worker. We would talk about anything BUT work. Those first few days…we took A LOT of walks. But after those first few days, I realized it started to work. And when I couldn’t sneak out for the walk, I became very aware of my physical and mental self when I started to become upset. And sometimes I could even see this boss’s responses from his side of thinking. Just sometimes!
This practice gave me the space to see the world I was living in from the outside in. Kind of like I was watching myself from outside of a snow globe… Slowly turning the globe and watching the scenes play out from each different angel. Jill Bolte Taylor, brain researcher, found that our triggering, weighty thoughts only have a life span of about 90 seconds IF (and this is a big IF) we do not engage with these thoughts.
Pratikpaksha Bhavana can be particularly useful in the holidays when we might be having closer than usual encounters with loved ones. When the first flush of a heated face appears, or the feeling of a rapid heart rate starts giving you the stress signal... what do you need to do to take a step back? Can you take a step back and think of something positive about that same situation?
And if not, can you take a quick walk around the block to let some of the good in? Give yourself 90 seconds of good thoughts and see what happens. We can do anything for 90 seconds.