“Coulda, woulda, shoulda” – now, how many times have I said that! I quite often find myself in the middle of a “should” phrase, such as “I should be doing this,” or “I really should have done that.” The word “should” carries many implications. It implies that I am not, have not, or will not be doing exactly what I am meant to be doing at any given moment. It implies that I have control. It implies that I am in disagreement with my experience, in disagreement with reality.
Through my yoga studies, I have come to realize that these “should” statements arise from my Ego, from the part of me that judges, compares, and is my own harshest critic. I have also come to realize that these “should” statements do not serve me in any helpful way; rather, they simply provide further fuel to the Ego by giving rise to the heavy feelings of guilt and shame. So, what do I do about all the “coulda, woulda, shoulda’s” that arise in my mind? Well, when I observe the “should” creeping in on my thoughts, I use it as an opportunity to practice the yogic technique of Pratipaksha Bhavana. That is to say, I exchange the “should” statement with the more positive affirmation of “I am exactly where I need to be and am doing exactly what I am meant to be doing in this moment.” I release a big sigh, and settle into the present moment. With this statement, I shift from my Ego mind to my Spirit heart; from guilt and shame to love and acceptance. With this statement, instead of resisting reality, I accept it with open arms in all of its perfect imperfections.
Is there a repetitive word pattern that you have observed within your mind? If so, does it serve you? If your internal dialogue does not serve you, then can you come up with a positive, affirmative statement to replace it with? Decide to practice Pratipaksha Bhavana for a single hour in your day. Simply observe your thoughts; if a self-defeating thought or word arises in the mind, allow yourself to gently release it by calling forth your affirmative statement. Notice how you feel. How do you feel when your old, repetitive thought pattern arises? How do you feel when you exchange it for your affirmation?
Observing our thoughts and words is a powerful practice that has a transformative effect when we take it a step further by making the conscious effort to interrupt our conditioned patterns. When we engage in this practice, we begin to recognize and release our samskaras (deeply rooted habits accumulated over many lifetimes). We begin to see shifts in our internal world, perhaps of feeling lighter, less burdened, greater joy, and more love. These shifts also radiate outward, resulting in smoother interactions with others, events of synchronicity, and abundance.
There is a well-known quote that aptly summarizes this idea:
Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
May you come to know the peace and love that resides within the lotus of your heart.