Ever wondered what could be common between a Billionaire and an accomplished Yogi.
They both practice this one most powerful practice of Pratipaksh Bhavna which ensures that their energies of the mind are not scattered but focused only on attaining their goal. It is because of this practice they have been able to accomplish so much in life whether it is the peak of Bhoga or Material world or the peak of Yoga or Spirituality on their journey to Moksha, the ultimate goal of self-realisation. Each one of us is capable of invoking these powers. The only reason why most of us keep struggling within our own vortex of pains and sufferings is that we are not watchful of what we allow to go inside of us.
Negative thoughts consume lot of our energy and distract us from pursuing our goals and life purpose. Whether these are thoughts about past painful memories or anxiety about future, they only create fear, hatred, jealousy, shame or guilt.They create lots of negative stress which impacts our physical health as well. Negative thoughts dominate our minds because they are linked or associated with past painful memories. The more you reinforce negative thoughts, the more pain and suffering they bring into our lives.
Another aspect of negative thoughts is that they prevent us from changing into a positive frame of mind. For example, if we start reading a sacred scripture like Bhagvad Geeta, the positive motivation that we receive from such scriptures, makes us more conscious about our painful past. So the moment we are reading good thoughts in Geeta, our negative thoughts bring out the contracting experiences we had in past. This happens to some people so they give up any effort to change their mindset. Similar negative thoughts can come while meditating initially. However, the only remedy is not to give up sacred practices. Our mind would pose resistance initially, but if we are steadfast in our practice, it will slowly get accustomed to a positive approach.
Scientific research is now recognizing the power of this profound practice. And this principle is what Ashtanga yoga Sutra calls Pratipaksha Bhavana, and the modern science refers to as cognitive reframing or reappraisal. Maharishi Patanjali’s Yoga sutra 2.33 recommends:
वितर्कबाधने प्रतिप्रक्षभावनम् ॥३३॥
vitarka-bādhane pratiprakṣa-bhāvanam ॥33॥
When disturbed by negative thoughts, one should replace them with opposite positive thoughts. This is pratipaksha bhavana. When disturbed by negative thoughts, cultivate the opposite mental attitude (Vitarka-badhane pratipaksha-bhavanam).
Vitarka means unreasonable and refers to wayward thoughts or defiant thoughts.
Bāadhane means opposing or oppressing
Pratipakṣa means the opposite or the opposite side.
Bhāvanam means reflection, or conception,
When you encounter negative thoughts, remind yourself that such negative thoughts will bring you nothing except unending misery. You can just silently talk to your mind, “My dear Mind, this is not a useful thought; this is going to bring me nothing except more suffering and pain and this is going to lead me into greater ignorance of truth.” This simple practice can be extremely powerful to balance, to purify, and train the mind.
Kevin Ochsner who studies the neuroscience of reappraisal at Columbia University puts it this way: “Our emotional responses ultimately flow out of our appraisals of the world, and if we can shift those appraisals, we can shift our emotional responses.” Reappraisal basically means consciously choosing how you perceive any situation, which has an impact on the kind of emotions that will emerge from it.
Basically there are two processes involved. The first is to be watchful and aware of the wayward thoughts as soon as they enter your mind. And the second is to recognize their futility and replace them with opposite thoughts. Replace them with Thoughts that generate a powerful counterforce.
Inviting in the opposite thought means :
- If we are thinking hatred, let us try to invite in love.
- If we are fearful let us try to feel courage.
- If we are experiencing jealousy let us invite in Compassion
Our emotions are a result of our perception of the world. So if our perception can be reframed, our emotions will also change. This can apply to all of our day to day experiences. For example, you can choose not to be bothered when you are stuck in traffic and instead enjoy an audio book that you are listening to.
Learning to switch your perception of the situation on demand is called “cognitive reappraisal” or pratipaksha bhavana in yoga.
Scientific Research shows that “conscious control over the limbic system is possible by changing the interpretation that creates the feeling. If we can just change how we interpret the reality, we can change the emotions that show up. It doesn’t mean suppressing a feeling, rather it just means focusing on a different aspect of the reality.
This practice can help us turn our life around and free a lot of our internal mental and emotional energy which we can then harness to lead a more spiritually and materially prosperous life.
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