Yoga: Pratipaksha Bhavana & The Power of Narratives

ChoateHouse_02Last month, I went through a painful break up after learning my partner had been deceptive and dishonest through our relationship. To say the least, I broke down completely and went through a period of deep processing – not just our relationship, but my greater personal patterns in relationship and redefining how I want to show up in the world. I’ve never been one to share much of my personal life on my blog, but lately I’ve been feeling a growing necessity to write from a place of openness and vulnerability. I think as a wellness professional, or any professional for that matter, we feel this strong expectation (often self-imposed) to show up in our field with all of our shit figured out. But the reality is, we’re all human – flawed and beautiful. And what connects us to one another more fully is the recognition that we sometimes must crumble in order to rebuild and share our experiences so others can grow with us.

This idea of crumbling and rebuilding is one I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately. Here’s what I’m coming to learn … we live in a world of stories. Our realities are not impermeable truths, but a loose construct of narratives that we formulate through our upbringing, cultural impressions and life experiences. These narratives shape our worldview and how we interact with the present moment.

In a book I’m reading called Tantra Illuminated by Christopher D. Wallis, he explains, “The primary value of narratives lies in their usefulness for helping us create the world we want to live in. When they are not doing that, their value is questionable.”

I started to look at all the stories I’d been selling myself about who I was, my past trauma, other’s actions and my self-worth. I watched how I felt when I retold the story of my break up to my friends, and noticed how each time I did I reinforced the painful experience in my mind and heart. And even though the immediate pain had passed, I was prolonging my suffering through the retelling of the stories.

I started to examine my life as a whole, questioning what stories were serving me and what were self-limiting. In deconstructing my own worldview, I recognized that all these painful moments I clung on to that seemed to define my life – they were just…stories. Moments of the past. Illusions preventing me from living in the present. And I was the one choosing to fuel them with emotion and meaning through the words I was speaking – inwardly and outwardly. It was a light bulb moment for me.

How liberating it feels now to recognize that I have the power to shape my worldview. Suddenly, I could see others stories, too. And how much easier it has become to live from a place of non-reaction when I can discern whether that story being told will serve my desired reality or not. Awareness is everything. 

ChoateHouse_01 copyTry this. Observe your words about yourself throughout the day. Do you make comments about your weight or appearance when you’re around certain friends? Do you compare your success to others in a critical? Simply notice what words you’re using to describe how you look and feel. Without getting into a deep analysis of why you’re choosing those words, see if you can identify the opposite – what is it you truly want to feel and experience?

In Yoga and Ayurveda, we call this Pratipaksha Bhavana – a technique for moving from the a challenging or contractive emotion or mindset, to one that feels empowering and expansive. This technique has three stages: dilution—you dilute the power of the negative thought by denying it your attention; substitution—while holding back attention from negative thoughts, start asserting that which is positive; and sublimation—as you continue doing this, you will find that the negative thoughts fade away. With consistency in consciousness, you realize that what seemed impossible to overcome has shifted and grown to what you desire.

This is the same way we can identify what narratives in our lives are no longer serving us and move away from painful patterns to rebuild a reality that uplifts our hearts.

If you desire relationships that are loving and honest, choose to show up in loving and honest ways for yourself and others. Let go of the narratives that you were once a victim to those who didn’t act how you desired. Choose to surround yourself with people who share the same worldview and who are doing their work to show up lovingly, honestly and openly – good community is everything! This goes the same with how you feel about your own body, your choices with food, your passion for your career and life direction. It will take steady work of recognizing when your past patterns are present through the stories you’re telling to yourselves and others, but how liberating it is to be at the helm of shaping a conscious life!

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*Photos by Choate House

13 Comments

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13 responses to “Yoga: Pratipaksha Bhavana & The Power of Narratives”

  1. Marlon says:

    Thank you so much for your beautiful post. I really believe we do create our world with the stories we tell ourselves and sometimes it takes immense pain for that to become clear. I appreciate your sharing and wish you all the best in healing 🙂

  2. Natassia says:

    I also want to say thanks for publishing such a wonderful post. I appreciate your honesty and insight — this one has hit home for me. I love reading your weekly posts as they are always inspiring, refreshing, and best of all present new ideas and different ways of thinking about our world. Wishing you the best!

  3. Lindsay says:

    This is a beautiful reminder of the power we have over our own happiness and life experience. Thank you for your words and inspiration

  4. Erin says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I also believe that we can create our own narrative and our own reality using our own thoughts. It’s so empowering and reminds me of what Marianne Williamson says, “our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” Refusing to give into the negative narrative empowers us to take responsibility for our lives and to help those around us. It’s amazing. Thank you!

  5. Brandon says:

    Nice Post. Thanks for sharing the information

  6. Diana Cohen says:

    Thank you for sharing your vulnerability. You are a beautiful light. XO

  7. Sherri Edge says:

    I am helping my brother as he dies from liver cancer. This is situation leaves me awash in negativity, frustration, fatigue, sadness. Reading about Pratipaksha Bhavana gives me a light to follow, a practice to help me move forward with an improved mindset. It was the right day for me to read this post. thanks

  8. Hi,

    Awesome post. Thanks for sharing lovely information

    keep posting.

  9. Rachel says:

    Love it & So relatable at the moment

  10. Great article. Nicely written. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work!

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