It seems to be very difficult to get my mind off some dirty attractions, which make my mind gross instead of thinking and loving God. When such thoughts come, I try to keep my mind centered on God and Guru, but still I allow my mind to get carried away. Being an adolescent, I know that this a part of this age. What must I practice to get rid off them? I really need an advice.
—Truth seeker, Saudi Arabia
Dear friend on the path,
First of all, don’t judge yourself, or feel bad because of it. This is a very common inner fight. I think no man on the path exists who doesn’t know it. Yes, maybe as an adolescent it is stronger, but even the greatest yogis have had that battle, sometimes winning, sometimes unfortunately not. Remember that it is not a sign of lack of spirituality to have such temptations, and even to lose the battle at times. The important thing is to keep on trying, to discover strategies that work. A saint is a sinner who never gave up.
Yogananda taught to be vigilant and watchful, and at the first moment these thoughts appear, to immediately divert the mind into another creative direction. The earlier we catch them, the easier it is, because once the mind really enters into those thoughts it is usually to late to stop them.
He also taught deep breathing when you are “under attack”: inhale deeply, pull the energy up from the lower spine into the head.
Another thing you may practice: when temptation comes, tense the whole body strongly with a double inhalation, as if you wanted to captivate all that energy in the tension, and then double-exhale and forcibly throw it out, away from you.
If these imaginations and thoughts persist, which probably will be the case, we must be real with ourselves, and may have to do one small step at a time. If for example we know that for now we don’t have the strength to fight them off completely, we can at least set ourselves limits: “Ok, for now I can’t help having some of these thoughts, but I won’t allow myself to go too far with my imagination.”
I at times told myself, “Ok, to fight it off completely right now, once and forever, is unrealistic, so I allow these thoughts one day, but the next I really battle them. Yogananda similarly teaches the “worry fast,” to set oneself certain hours each day in which we absolutely resist worrying (if that is our trouble). The same can be done with a “temptation-fast.” Just say, each day from 10-12AM and from 8-10.00PM (for example): “I will vigorously fight these thoughts.” Then expand these hours, in a realistic way.
Here is another thought: Your case might be different, but I used to keep fighting these thoughts without lasting success. It became much better, and I became much purer in my mind, once I got into a relationship and got married. Sometimes we need to get into the experience, to see that the temptation is much less a big deal than it appears. (Others have a different path and dharma, and need to fight through it without getting involved.)
Of course try your best to avoid any film, book, things in the internet, and friends who feed that kind of thought. Also try to keep yourself very active: “A lazy mind is the workshop of the devil.”
Many times I have burnt that kind of thought in the Ananda purification ceremony. In Saudi Arabia you don’t have that possibility, but you may mentally build a fire and with a movement of the hands cast that temptation into the flames, affirming, “I am free!”
If all else fails, there is always the sincere prayer: “Lord, as You see I need Your help, I can’t do it alone. Please help.”
I wish you progressive success in winning over what Yogananda called “poisoned honey.”
In divine friendship, Jayadev