Being a devotee on your own

Since this is my first blog post, I guess I should start by introducing myself. My name is Gregor and I’m currently working as a researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence at a Computer Science Faculty. I live with my wife Tina and my 2 years old son Matija in Slovenia, a small country in the central Europe. As I guess most of the people reading this blog, I’m also a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda and a practitioner of Kriya Yoga.

The first time I heard about Ananda was in 2002. At that time I attended a beginners class on meditation that was led by Shivani and Deborah, longtime members of Ananda community in Assisi, Italy. The course left a strong impression on me and I soon started with a regular practice. In 2003 Tina and I visited Ananda Assisi twice. We both felt strongly that this is our path and at the end of the year we became disciples. We’ve visited Ananda Assisi center many times since then.

During the summer 2008 our whole family spent a month in Ananda Village. That was for us all a very unique experience. Since we were there with a baby, we stayed at the Banyan House which is a dorm during the school year. The house is placed right behind the Master’s Market which made it a perfect place for us to meet the residents of Ananda. Many of them have been practicing Kriya Yoga for decades. It was incredibly inspiring to be in their company – not only because of their wonderful personalities but even more so because of the joy and love that we felt in their presence.

It is quite easy and natural for me to be in an uplifted and devotional state of mind while staying at Ananda, being surrounded by other devotees. The difficulty is, however, how to remain in such a state when I return back home. Back to my ordinary life. Back to my job as a computer scientist. Back to the old environment.

At times like that, my old habits and attitudes usually start to come back. Maya again tightens its grip on me and it’s not very easy to remember ones own highest nature.  For me, personally,  it takes a lot of conscious effort to achieve that. I’ve been using, however, some practices and attitudes that help me a lot and I wanted to share them with you.

Chanting or listening to spiritual talks. Yes, it’s true that we cannot all live in a community where we could talk, chant and mix with other devotees every day. What we can have, however, is a kind of a virtual satsanga.

There is these days a huge amount of information available on the internet. If you just visit websites like you’ll find not only articles but also many video and audio recordings of different talks. These recordings can come from Sunday services, Treasures along the path or other community events. Asha Praver from Palo Alto community provides besides Sunday services also recordings of many of her fabulous classes, which I really recommend listening to.

We all do many daily activities that allow us to listen to these talks. When driving a car or shopping, for example, we can listen to the radio shows, news and commercials or we can listen to something that will inspire us. It’s our choice.

I clearly remember when a few years ago me and my wife recorded the first CD with about 50 mp3s of Sunday services. We listened to it in our car each time we were driving and after some time we replayed the CD so many times that we knew by heart each of the stories and jokes that were told in all those talks.

Attunement with the Guru. It would be good for us if we could perform all our activities in attunement with the divine will and not the will of our ego. Trying to be attuned with the Guru is a great practice, but also one that I find quite challenging since it has to be consciously practiced in each moment throughout the day.

A good example of one who is versed in this is a longtime devotee whom my wife recently met. She told my wife that she practices attunement with the Guru even with the smallest things that one might not event find relevant. She said, for example, that when she wakes up, she goes to her wardrobe and asks: “Master, what would you like me to wear today?” and then tries to feel the answer in her heart.

Working with the attitude of service. We all have our daily jobs that we have to perform. Most people, however, see jobs only as means that allow them to spend the rest of their lives fulfilling their desires. This is a rather unfortunate view since our jobs take about one third of our time (if not for any better reason).

A much better approach is to try to see your job as a way of serving God. As Yogananda said, “God is the doer” so why not try to feel his energy flowing through you.

To remind me to stay in the attitude of service I found myself a simple solution. Since I mostly work with my computer I wrote a simple application that periodically shows photos of the Master on the computer screen. No matter what I’m doing, every 30 minutes a picture is shown for a few moments on top of everything, helping me to detach myself from my current job and to check my work attitude. If somebody would perhaps be interested in trying this application, you can download it from here.

Avoiding things that pull us outwards. This world is set up in such a way so that it is extremely easy and naturally for us to get pulled outwards through the senses. Just imagine how much information are we bombarded with in each moment. We are naturally inclined to somehow relate to this information. At that moment our likes and dislikes come into play and woosh … there goes our calmness and centeredness we’ve been trying so hard to cultivate.

To help myself in this regard I took some measures that might to a worldly person seem extreme and inappropriate.

I, for example, very rarely watch TV and almost never watch the news, listen to the radio or read newspapers. To be clear, I’m not ignoring the media because I would want to stay ignorant of the world. I’m ignoring them because I believe that just having an opinion on some matter won’t help anyone but will just bring me unrest.

Sending love to people whom I meet. The fact that I’m a scientist should give you an idea that it’s much more natural to me to use my mind than my heart. As a remedy, I use different techniques that help me with opening my heart.

One such technique that I love to do is to try to send love to people whom I meet. It doesn’t matter where I meet them. I might be just passing somebody on the street or I might be conversing with somebody whom I’ve known for a long time. What I first do is to try to feel a deep connection and oneness with them. I then try to feel divine love flowing from my heart center to their own center, thus bringing an even deeper sense of unity between us. I found that such a technique helps a lot to counterbalance my mind who is very proficient in dividing and finding differences among us.

Since we all have different difficulties that prevent us from being in touch with our deepest self, I guess we also use different methods to help us. If you yourself have some helpful techniques that you practice and could share with us, please leave them in the comments section.

A Place Called Ananda

A blog by disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda