Just as I clicked both kids into their car seats after visiting a friend and her new baby in the Jersey Suburbs, white pellets started dumping from the sky. I had to crouch down to see out of the windshield. Gripping the steering wheel tightly, I questioned whether or not to pull over and wait it out. But I worried that if I did that we could get stuck so I kept going.
The voice of Ester Hicks, the art of attraction teacher who channels an energetic collective called Abraham, came through the speakers of the car. She was telling a seminar participant to stop focusing on what he didn’t want, to relax and start focusing on what he did want instead.
I assumed this wasn’t a coincidence and decided to take her advice myself. Rather than thinking about how hard it was to see, I started to think about our 4-wheel drive and how in 8 years of having a Honda CR-V it hadn’t failed us once. I loosened my grip a bit and dropped my shoulders away from my ears. I started telling myself that I could do it and that we were safe. I began to visualize us safe at home.
Then, rather than looking at the other cars, the median, the thick, wet drops of snow, I looked just a little further ahead to the space between the other cars. The space started to look like a tunnel built just for us. Soon all I could see was light and road. Eventually I didn’t have to try so hard to handle to car and overcome the conditions. I could just focus on the best outcome and let the rest fade into the background.
In less than 20 minutes we made it home with both kids asleep in the back seat. I sat for a few moments, looking in the rearview mirror, watching them breathe. They had put all their faith in me. They had no question that I would get them home safely. I wondered what would happen if I put even just a little bit of that faith in myself. After taking them upstairs one at a time even Cassidy, who had been having trouble sleeping for a few weeks, slept soundly through the night. It was the best sleep we had all had in quite a while.
The next morning it occurred to me that this simple and powerful practice could help my students and clients with any situation. I almost always begin a wellness session with the question, What do you want? It seems like an obvious question, but it is very difficult for most people to answer. We are quite good at talking about what we don’t want. We can give great detail, conjure up strong feelings of aversion and therefore focus our attention on what we don’t want. Whether it’s, not wanting to be late, not wanting to get sick or not wanting to lose a job, our minds work in pictures. They create pictures of us missing the train, coughing and sneezing or quivering in front of our boss. Even though we are thinking and saying we don’t want it, our minds are taking that strong energy and putting it towards the very thing that we don’t want.
Neville Goddard wrote, “Be careful of your moods and feelings, for there is an unbroken connection between your feelings and your visible world.” The Yoga Sutras say that when we find ourselves focusing on something that causes us suffering we should flip the meaning of that thing. This is called Pratipaksha Bhavanam. Bhava means feeling. This sutra is telling us that in order to have a different experience, we must think and feel a different thing. It’s not so easy to stop feeling sad or to quit feeling lonely. However, it is pretty easy to think about things that make us feel happy and to think about all the people who love us and care about us.
Rather than focusing on the fear of crashing the car or the sight of the other cars closing in on us, we focus on the feeling of relaxation, the sight of the space between the cars. We focus on what we want instead of focusing on what we don’t want.
When you turn your attention away from what you do not want and toward what you do want and when you can discern the feeling associated with what you do want and get yourself to feel that feeling even for a few moments, your experience will change. You may not always get the exact object or experience you were hoping for, but you will definitely get much closer than you would if you were focusing on what you didn’t want. Just like doing a new yoga pose, this takes practice, but it is well worth the effort.
A client of mine was struggling with filing a legal brief for a difficult case she was working on. She had conjured up all sorts of doomsday images in her mind. She’d let her mind take her to worst case scenario well before the event even happened.
While the practice of Pratipaksha Bhavanam can be used in the midst of a challenging situation or even after it has happened, the best time to use it is before something happens. As the Sutras also say, “Future pain can be avoided.”
I encouraged her to spend some time imagining the court appearance going smoothly, the judge being friendly, her client being happy and to imagine herself feeling a sense of accomplishment and contentment. On the long train ride to the court she had time to do this. And on her way home she texted me to tell me that everything went so much better than she could have expected. In fact, it was almost exactly as she imagined it in her mind on the ride there!
The next time you notice yourself dreading an upcoming event or worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet, use the power of your mind and your feelings to influence the situation, which really means to influence yourself so that your perception of the situation is in alignment with what you want and who you want to be.
Neville Goddard also writes, “Turn from appearances and assume the feeling that would be yours were you already the one you wish to be.” He takes it a step beyond having something to being something. If we want to get home safely, then we focus on being someone who feels very safe and secure. Another question I often ask people is, “Who do you want to be?” This can be even harder to answer, but once you get clear this desire can become a dristhti, or a point of focus. When we focus our mind’s eye on what we want to experience and who we want to be, and when we let ourselves feel the feelings of that experience, we can change our lives and the world around us for the better.