Our beloved friend, Nayaswami Maria, requested I blog about how I apply yoga teachings in the world as a householder and doctor living outside of Ananda Village. She said, “Those who read Ananda’s blogs have an abundance of information about living in spiritual community. Many people want to know how these teachings help folks in the ‘real world.’” Thus, this blog is dedicated to Maria.

Not long ago, an enthusiastic and gregarious patient related, “ever since I saw you two months ago, I’ve been quite depressed.” I inquired about what she had been doing in that time, and she replied, “I joined a book club and we read a book every few weeks and talk about it. I’ve also been seeing a lot of movies.”

“Please tell me about the books you’ve been reading and movies you’ve been watching.”

“Well the books are all current bestsellers that are being recommended in the book group. I thought it would help me stay current and engaged with other people to read and discuss books we’re reading together. I’ve also been watching art and foreign films at the progressive movie houses.”

“Have any books or movies been depressing?”

“Yes, come to think of it they’ve all been depressing. Recently, every single movie I’ve seen and book I’ve read has been depressing. I can’t think of one that was inspiring or happy.”

“I wonder if this is a factor in the depression you are experiencing. I’ve found for myself, that I need to ‘protect my consciousness’ so to speak when selecting entertainment, reading materials and other influences in my life.”

“Now that I think about it, I believe this has been the cause of my depression! Of course I’m going to feel low and down when I read depressing novels and watch sad movies! Thanks for that insight. From now on I’m going to read positive and inspiring books and see movies that make me feel good or have a positive message.”

Do you relate to this patient? Does she seem like anyone you might know? It’s amazing how often we allow ourselves to be negatively influenced and even traumatized by news, music, novels, movies and TV programs blasting at us each day. Imagine living even 100 years ago, when such influences weren’t so prevalent. There was no television, internet, or movies to barrage us with their messages of suspense, fear, despair, murder, deception and sadness.

I had the opportunity to visit a family member recently who left the television on all day to get the current news and stock market updates. I’ve limited my exposure to television so much in the last decades that it was shocking to hear the announcers and news people continuously yell at the audience! I surmise they believe you simply can’t speak in a normal tone of voice and get your point across!

It is very liberating to realize we have a choice about the media and influences we allow in our home, automobiles, relationships, reading material and entertainment. It might be freeing to “take a fast” for several weeks from the influences that make you feel anxious and depressed. Then decide which of those influences you want back in your life – if any! Naturally life happens and there are events that affect how we feel. In general we get to choose which influences we want to have as our “personal companions.” I choose to select harmonious and uplifting “companions” whenever possible.

You can also extend this line of thinking to which thoughts you choose to entertain on an ongoing basis. Why not choose those that are harmonious, peaceful, calming, and uplifting to you?

A Place Called Ananda

A blog by disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda