Overcoming Negative Habits of Mind and Body


I struggle day and night to control my baser self, in vain for about 8-9 years. It’s not as if I had no success. But it was short-lived and temporary. I find myself firmly in the clutches of the temptations of mind. I pray daily in the morning to God to help me. But by evening I’m back to my old ways. I have both internal spiritual challenges as well as external practical tasks. Even if in the remotest possibility, I successfully overcome the former, latter pulls me down. I can’t move sans God.

—Ashutosh, India


Dear Friend,

Focusing on our spiritual progress or focusing on what we consider is our lack of progress is self-defeating. In addition to that disadvantage, it turns us into a merchant — bargaining with God for his virtues. Furthermore, the stress and tension that results from the sense of failure does nothing to encourage you.

So, let’s try another approach. Your soul is as old as God because your soul is a spark of Infinity. You and I have been in creation since time immemorial. “Patience,” it has been well said, “is the fastest road to success.”

Take some distance from your undesirable habits. When you meditate and pray, do not think about your problems. Instead, give yourself, heart, mind, soul, and body, to the Infinite Power, the Divine Mother, praying “Reveal Thyself, reveal Thyself. I am forever yours, be Thou mine.”

When your mind reverts to negative thoughts, step back mentally, and watch your mind indulging in fantasy, fear, or other imaginings. Even if you indulge in negative actions, do the same. Laugh at your mind’s folly for things that are not real and will likely never be real. Tell your mind that it is silly for indulging in such thoughts. Encourage the mind to “Get real!” Coax your subconscious mind to focus on virtue; kindness; compassion; wisdom; non-judgment; hope; love; and charity (to name a few).

Our soul’s resurrection in Realization (“Aham Brahmasi“) is not merely the product of our own will power. Will power and wise intention with devotion, though necessary, are only about 25% of the power that it takes to achieve Self-realization. The rest of the power is the grace of God and guru. Surrender yourself into the hands of Divine Love and Wisdom.

“Naughty or good, Divine Mother, I am always thine. Be Thou mine!” God made this world tempting and so it is God who must uplift us provided we seek His grace.

Do you see it now? It is not by our effort alone but by the grace of God, united to our will, intelligence, and effort.

It can be helpful, also, to develop good habits in response to negative ones. I don’t know the details of your temptations, but come up with an affirmation or mantra to use whenever a certain thought, emotion, or image appears in the mind. If you are tempted to judge others, develop the habit of saying to yourself mentally (each time judgment appears in your mind), “I love you as a child of God.” Fashion a mental response to each type of temptation and let that be your mantric-shield when those appear.

Paramhansa Yogananda stated that “Thoughts are universally not individually rooted.” These thoughts you are having (and actions you may be indulging in) are not yours. Instead, by force of temptation and repeated action, you have tuned into certain channels of consciousness (greed, lust, anger, whatever). You can change the channel!

The secret of transcendence is to not react: “Yogas chitta vritti nirodha!” (Patanjali, stanza two, Pada 1). The state of yoga-union is achieved when the fluctuations of the mind (likes, dislikes, etc) subside into pure Awareness of the Self.

Go now in peace for “Victory is written on your brow!”

Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA