Yoga Sutra 2.33 - Cultivating Opposites

I read a book over Christmas by Susie Pearl.  In it she gives simple and effective advice on changing your mindset in order to create for yourself a positive and fulfilling life.  One of her tips, and one which I have been busy implementing in my life, is the idea that you can change the way you think about things; you can even change your own emotions; by cultivating the opposite sentiment.  So in the face of fear, you cultivate a sense of your own courage; in the face of anger, you cultivate peace; when nervous, you remind yourself of your own abilities and thereby increase your confidence, and so on.

It is similar to a book I read by Dr S Pillay on overcoming fear; his advice (using the latest neuro-science to validate his thesis) is that we can overcome fear by cultivating hope (it's opposite).

I've been calling this, Flipping It.  So if I've been nervous of something or afraid, then instead of playing my inner record which reminds me of all the times I've failed and lists all of the many reasons why my newest venture might fail, I say to myself (sometimes out loud), Flip it. 

Flipping it, for me, involves turning the record over, so that instead of playing those old tracks that keep me stuck and make me nervous of change, I play a different tune, one that brings to mind other times when I have made changes that have worked and have improved my life, my work or the way I do things.

This technique is quite amazing in its effectiveness!  You have to be disciplined (it is easy to become addicted to the negative side of the LP, because that's what keeps you where you feel safe and comfortable) and you have to be aware (of your tendencies and habits), but it is quite astonishing how quickly you can learn to view things from a completely different perspective within your own head.

Last night I picked up my copy of the Yoga Sutras and read chapter 2.  I have a lovely translation by Alistair Shearer, which I find scholarly, but readable, and this is how he translates sutra II.33
When negative feelings restrict us, the opposite should be cultivated. 

I almost laughed out loud when I read that.  I thought about how it had taken me the purchase and reading of another book, published just last year, to implement this concept; I thought about how often I have come back to the Yoga Sutras and found there something essential, something that has dropped into my life or my yoga practice over time, which I realise was there in the Sutras all along, waiting to be uncovered, understood and lived. 

In yoga practice we are always playing with balance and moving towards better understanding of  our own light and shade: through asanas we discover how wonky our bodies are (even after years of practice), where are our weak spots, where is our strength; in pranayama we see how our breathing patterns reflect our state of mind and we seek equilibrium there; in meditation we confront ourselves in all honesty and without distraction and look for the insight with which we might live a life more whole. 

In addition to this, there is of course, a balance to be struck in our extremes of feeling and thought: if I think to myself that I am bound to fail and that all of my ideas are rubbish, then it is just as possible for me to see that sometimes I succeed and that some of my ideas are good ones.  This changes the way in which I view just about everything. 

My short experience of 'flipping it' has brought a new kind of courage and freedom to the way I live which I am enjoying very much.  So I am grateful to Susie Pearl for putting the idea in a way that I understood and was able to work into my everyday life; but most of all I am full of respect for Patanjali for, once again, having got there first by some two thousand years.


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