Within every moment there lies a choice. A choice of the thoughts we hold on to, a choice of the reactions we give voice to, a choice of the actions we embody. And all of these moment-by-moment choices add up to create the reality that we live in. This is important to realize because every choice is directed by one of two states of consciousness – love or fear. And each choice we make in thought, word or action determines our experience of life. Do you want yours to be a life of fear or a life of love?
It is hard to imagine anyone choosing a life of fear isn’t it? But this is what each of us does every time we think, speak or act from a place of fear versus love. When we think “I’ll never accomplish that challenging task” or “This person doesn’t love me; therefore, I am not loveable” we are setting up an experience of reality based on fear. On the other hand, each time we choose to think “I can do that challenging task because I reflect the infinite potential and wisdom of the Divine” or “It is too bad that this person isn’t expressing love to me. I am made of the Love of the Universe and I will shine it out to others who can receive it and meet me in it” we are creating a reality based on love.
Take a moment to examine your consciousness now. Where do you stand on the spectrum of love versus fear?
In "The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali," sutra 2:33, we find this instruction, “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana.”
This seemingly simple teaching takes a lifetime to implement. It requires extreme diligence in watching the quality and content of all our thoughts, and the discipline to shift negative thoughts into positive ones, or fearful thoughts into loving ones, as many times as it takes to eradicate the destructive ones from our consciousness. The mind is often not a willing participant. It has the capacity to understand intellectually the value of a practice such as this, but hold a resistance to its actual implementation.
Therefore, two preliminary practices must be employed, self-observation complimented by self-compassion. It is helpful to ascertain why certain patterns of fearful, negative thoughts became established in the first place. Then we can hold ourselves in compassionate understanding as we walk through the process of inner change. It is also essential to acknowledge that, in fact, this mental shifting is an ongoing practice and not something that can be accomplished overnight.
Start by making a list of all the ways in which you feel fear. Then begin to notice the thoughts that run through your mind on a daily basis that support those fears. Just begin with this inner witnessing. Assess where these fearful beliefs may have originated. Were they modeled for you by someone in your family? Were they told to you directly by a respected elder? Begin to question how these fearful beliefs have affected your life. Do you want to keep them now that you realize you have a choice, or do you want to change them?
Secondly, write down all the ways in which you experience the feeling of love. Then you can overlay specific thoughts of love onto the circumstances and beliefs of fear from the first list. For example, let’s say you feel fearful about insufficient finances. The repetitive thought that runs through your mind is that you are in lack, not having enough. But in your love list you notice that you always feel an abundance of love while out in nature. Practice pratipaksha bhavana by replacing every fearful, lack-based thought about finances with a love-centered thought such as “The Infinite Creator of Nature knows my needs and supplies for them each day.”
Another example could be that you fear never finding a joyous, intimate relationship. Repetitive thoughts such as, “I will never have a love partner” or “I am destined to be alone” plague the mind. Yet when contemplating how you feel love, you are warmed by the thought of a beloved pet. Transfer this energy of loving into a positive overlaying thought such as “I expand the love I experience from (beloved pet) to those around me. By doing this, I magnetize to my life those who can meet me inside the energy of love.”
Repeat your love-based thoughts with vigor and trust any time a fearful thought enters your mind. Eventually these will drive the fearful thoughts right out of your awareness. Like building a bicep muscle through repetitive weight lifting, we build mental muscles of love by choosing it as our focus again and again. Anytime we are pulled from it we catch ourselves and come back. There is no shortcut, and this practice takes vigilant effort, but over time we discover a sweetness creeping into our hearts and our days. When we shift our consciousness from fear to love, the world begins to present love back to us in ever-increasing and unexpected ways.
Creating a consciousness of love is the ultimate spiritual practice and changes the very nature of our reality. Take a step away from fear today. Move in the direction of love and watch the world open its heart to you.