“Habits,” Paramhansa Yogananda said, “can be changed in a day. They are nothing but concentration of the mind. You’ve been concentrating one way: Simply concentrate another way, and you’ll completely overcome the habit.”
You can use the power of your mind to change habits, develop new skills and qualities, and deepen your meditations. Nancy Mair, a long-time Ananda Village resident, tells in her book, Grace, how focusing the mind deeply can effect dramatic change in your life:
I was an avid downhill ski racer during my high school years. One year, I returned from summer racing camp with high enthusiasm and began my preseason training in July. I trained hard and diligently, 3 to 4 hours every day. In early winter, the snows finally came. Going down my first practice course of the season, I caught a tip on a gate, fell, and tore a tendon and ligaments in my ankle.
I was in a cast until nearly the end of the ski season. I missed skiing tremendously, and under the circumstances, the only way I could enjoy it was by visualizing myself going down the slopes. I added to my mental pictures the many new pointers I had received from the coaches at ski camp. I mentally skied any time of day or night that I felt like it. It was the only way for me to appease my deep longing for the exhilaration of skiing.
My cast was eventually taken off, and I was ready to get back on the slopes the final few weeks of the season. My first day out, I discovered my skiing had improved to such an extent that my coach didn’t even recognize me as I made my first enthusiastic runs down the mountain. I couldn’t believe the change myself. My coach approached me at the end of the day and asked me how I had managed to improve so dramatically without being able to practice. I told him that I had been skiing in my mind, executing turns over and over again. He was astonished by my answer.
That summer when I returned to racing camp, the coaches there could hardly believe their eyes. They, too, asked how I managed to make such phenomenal progress in my skiing, because they had never seen anyone change so much in just one year. I told them that I did as they had suggested the previous summer and pictured in my mind the way I should be skiing. I was unhindered by the actual physical practice, and I never failed to make the turns correctly in my mind. Once my mind “understood,” my body simply followed along.
Every day I could mentally ski exactly the way I wanted to — and my body learned how in reality by my focusing clearly, and with deep concentration, on the actions I wished to be experiencing. I had no idea that my thoughts were actually making any changes. It wasn’t until I was back on the slopes that I realized the importance of what I had been doing.
The technique of visualization and mind power can be applied to anything. Twenty-four years ago a survey of Canadian Olympic athletes found that 99% were using creative visualizations to improve their performance. During meditation, visualizations can lift us into attunement with God’s higher consciousness. Swami Kriyananda said, “If you meditate on peace, and on those things that will help you become peaceful…, it will be easier for God to come to you as peace. If we have a clear idea of the experience we’re seeking, we’ll have a greater chance of having that experience.”
God comes to us in the way that people seek Him. Visualizations, chants, and prayers are focused and magnetic ways to draw God to us in His various aspects. These “soul calls” help us also to approach God with the pure spiritual attitude and sensitivity necessary to win His favor. We can deepen our experience of God especially by using the spiritually charged visualizations, affirmations, chants, and prayers written by great saints and masters who communed with Spirit.