Vitarka badhane pratipaksa bhavanam
When the mind is disturbed by thoughts contrary to yama & niyama, one should ponder on the opposite, that is, on constructive thoughts, and driving forces. II.33
In the yamas and niyamas, Patanjali outlines 10 qualities and modes of being in and seeing the world. Tools and techniques to mutually benefit our journeys, and those of the people, beings, and world we move through.
He follows that up with: but you’re still human.
You will have moments where the habits cultivated over the majority of your life will come in and all you can think to do is lie, or say the mean thing, or be so mad or hurt that you just want to be tight and closed around your heart.
And he says –pause in that moment (which we’ve been training to do with the yamas and niyamas). And see it, acknowledge the dark thing, and hold it – which in and of itself is hard work. And hold it lightly, unjudgingly and uncelebratingly, in your hand, and then hold up your other hand and counter it with the opposite.
It’s a contemplation exercise. It’s a brain plasticity exercise – choosing a new way-of-being mental groove. It’s training a vine to go up a different path. At each cross-road of the lattice work, you hold the space to see your options, and decide which direction to grow in.
Implicit in this is the “do not beat yourself up” idea. Neither celebrating, nor ignoring, nor judging, nor fixing, nor feeling like you are wrong in some way. It’s neither trying to be holy (and ignore these things) or just going as always (and ignoring the possibility), it’s accepting and choosing. It’s as Ram Dass says “to risk being human”, or as Michael Stone says, “yoga is the process of becoming more human.”
Sometimes it could be with a “what would ahimsa do?” What would satya, etc. do? What would my isvara do? Invariably it would be to let go, which might not always be the antidote you’re ready for. But sometimes just imagining maharaji in my situation, makes letting go seem more likely.
Bird Wings by Rumi
Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you’re bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.
Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
if it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting
The two as beautifully balanced and coordinated