वितर्कबाधने प्रतिपक्षभावनम् I
When distress (vitarka) makes us tighten up (bādhane), let us cultivate an alternative (pratipakṣa) perspective (bhāvanam).
PRACTICAL LIVING In sūtras II.30-II.32 we were introduced to the first 2 limbs of yoga: yama and niyama. They are suggestions for how to develop clarity and balance in our relationships (yama) and our lifestyle (niyama). In this sūtra, Patañjali says that if we don’t follow the yama and niyama, disturbances (vitarka) will arise in the form of stress, worry, anxiety, craving or fear. When these occur (or ideally, before they occur), it is helpful for us to switch channels and do something different. This action, which may be only mental, but often is more effective being physical, can be done in one of three ways:
i. Consciously trying to see the situation, thought or emotion in a different way. If a friend says something that agitates you, before the automatic response occurs, can you stop and reflect on your emotions, the situation and gain more clarity?
ii. Seek advice from someone else. Others will view the situation from another perspective and may be helpful to us. Psychologists, yoga therapists, mentors and other healers’ jobs are to provide people with a detached alternative angle or viewpoint. In business, consultants are able to see dysfunctional patterns that people within the organization often cannot see because they are too involved in it.
iii. Put yourself into the other person’s shoes sometimes. What would it be like to be in their position? Why scream at the person doing your check-in at the airport about the flight being delayed? Have you put yourself in their shoes?
Developing alternative perspectives requires both a desire to change and humbleness to acknowledge that our ancient ways of seeing and doing things are often not the best ways. The more we practice this, the easier it gets to do this before the pressure cooker blows up.
IN THE YOGA WORLD Some interpreters of the Yoga Sūtras say that if we feel anger (which is the opposite of one of the yamas – ahiṁsā), then we should practice feeling love. Well, for those people who have worked a lot on themselves, that probably works. For many of us, when we feel anger, we are so attached to it that the idea of cultivating love at that moment is definitely not in our “To Do” list. Instead of screaming and causing harm, however, releasing that energy by punching bags, screaming outdoors out of the top of your lungs or hitting a truck tire with a sledge hammer as hard as you can (it works, seriously!) may be the best alternative (pratipakṣa bhāvanam). Then, when anger arises, you may even place that person’s photograph in your altar and send them love…maybe 🙂
Trying out different things is how we constantly search for balance in yoga. In the yamas we try and balance honesty (satya) and kindness (ahiṁsā). In āsana (yoga poses), we search for different ways to experience firmness and softness. In prāṇāyāma (breath extension), we are playing with the inhale and exhale, and the left and right nostrils. In concentration (dhāraṇā) and meditation (dhyāna) the balance comes from being focused yet relaxed. Finding this balance in practice requires the ability to look at ourselves from different angles.
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON James, a curious, open-minded and fun-loving ‘neighbor’ comes to mind this week. I could talk to him about pretty much any topic and he will engage with a fresh and enthusiastic attitude. Although he has rooted values, he is willing to listen and acknowledge others’ perspectives. He is light, funny and accepting. His simple yet profound vision of life has made him a significant part of my life. Thank you James for being part of my community! You help my inner child come out, and I love that!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and next week we will expand on the idea of cultivating alternatives viewpoints!