Pratipaksa Bhavanam II

Pratipaksa Bhavanam 2  ~ PYS II.34

So often I have moments in my own practice, and have heard from other practitioners “I did that thing again. I see it. Again. How long will I be stuck only seeing this habit? When will I be able to shift?”

We’ve duly noted our habits, vices, or moments of spiritual narcolepsy – whether they be giving a dirty look, drinking root beer, telling that gray lie, or whatever our particular pattern is. We’ve worked on accepting them, without judgement. And yet… there they go again!

The first shift is being able to foresee the habit, maybe only by the smallest of margins, maybe the hand is already in the fridge with the root beer firmly grasped. And yet! A moment is opened wide for us to contemplate in.

330_the_lorax_cover

And like the Lorax we ask “Which way does a tree fall?”

And answer, “Whichever way it’s leaning.”

We look at where we would fall if we were to continue on with the pattern, and use that as motivation to not continue onwards.

So we put the root beer back, we grab the alternative and head off. With two further points of practice:

1)     Letting Go – Theoretically to reach the point of putting the root beer back from a place of acceptance and recognition of habit would imply you have let go of root beer. That is not always the case, it’s important to watch out for false letting go – pushing away. Letting go is all about the internal state, and not at all about the external actions.  If you’re still internally occupied with root beer, it matters little whether or not you drink it.  Make sure to stay meditative and honest with where you are. It is possible to have completely let go of root beer, and yet drink it every day.  That’s a high level of letting go, and not something to reach for.  But you can imagine what that might be like.

iPad Wallpaper - 02

2)    Leaning – Now that you’re in a groove of foreseeing, expand it!  It’s not just for those big patterns of habit.  It can be an intention in asana class to return to, or one you practice throughout the day. Ask yourself “What way would I fall in this moment?” “What way am I leaning?” Then adjust, so that when we do fall (because we never won’t fall), we cause the least harm possible, and feel stronger and surer of ourselves as we stand back up.

How do you lean when you’re on the subway? Walking down the street? Running late for work? Making purchases in the grocery store? When you know you’re going into a situation that usually prompts you to   X     — prep beforehand. Set yourself up so that you will take your time with your choice, be honest, and choose to let go.

DNA Bases Alignment“People often describe the genome as a blueprint, but it’s more like a weather report. It can’t tell us what tomorrow’s clouds will look like, but it can warn us there’s a chance of rain.” Richard Eskow (in Tricycle)

Whether the fall is hereditary heart disease or osteoporosis, whether it’s lifestyle illness or heartbreak. Whether it’s separation, or losing someone we love. Whether we stop being mindful, and start taking it out on our relationships. Whatever it it – it’s going to happen, we just don’t know exactly how or when. But we know we all fall.  How you lean now will make all the difference. Scientifically speaking, emotionally speaking, yogically speaking, human beingly speaking.

Pratipaksa Bhavanam I

Photo33_33Vitarka 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
and expanding,
The two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birdwings.