“You don’t have to try” played on the speakers as I sat in the dentist’s chair recently. Although in all fairness the song was about not trying to be someone else, it concerned me to hear those words.
Because “You don’t have to try” was the repeated refrain of the song, it seemed to me that these words would be the ones to stick in the mind of the listener and possibly exert a negative influence. I thought to myself how important it is to try—even to try very hard.
But what exactly does it mean to try?
The Importance of Self-Effort
In life and in the practice of meditation, self-effort is very important. It is the mechanism by which we put ourselves in cooperation with the universe itself. Positive energy put forth with direction creates a magnetism that draws to us what we need. If we remain only passive, the fullness of life will pass us by.
A disciple of Yogananda’s, Debi Mukerjee, once said to Yogananda, “Give me devotion.” Yogananda replied, “No—that is like asking for money so that you can do what you want. First, you have to earn it, then you can do what you want.”
At a Christmas meditation one year, Yogananda spoke from the depths of his divine communion, addressing some of the disciples with words of encouragement and guidance. To Walter, the name that Yogananda used for J. Donald Walters (later Swami Kriyananda), he said, “You must try hard, for God will bless you very much.”
Never Give Up
The masters are fully aware of our past karma and see in us our divine potential. It is our responsibility to put forth all the energy we can to attune to their consciousness, following closely the individual path they have outlined for us. Swami Kriyananda said, “The legacy of Paramhansa Yogananda is the consciousness that makes us as he was.” That is a valid statement of any true spiritual teacher.
To give up means we have lost faith in the power of the Guru to help us and in the power of his presence to comfort and guide us. In a beautiful letter, “Never Lose Courage,” Yogananda shares the Guru’s potential closeness with us as well as behaviors and attitudes which magnetize success. He writes,
That is the secret of victory over delusion and all troubles. Be cut to pieces, but never give up. Be a divine leech – suck at the blood of wisdom even though torn to bits. A smooth life is not a victorious one. And I will give you lots of good karma, so you will get through. I will not only ever forgive you, but ever lift you up no matter how many times you fall.
Trying Too Hard
In The New Path, Swami Kriyananda describes a time when he was trying to meditate deeply with long hours of practice. In fact, he was achieving deeper states of inner stillness.
One day, determined to meditate until his goal of attaining full superconsciousness was achieved, he meditated for nine continuous hours. Finally, exhausted, he admitted defeat. Now, discouraged, it took him months to regain the confidence to try to again meditate deeply. Yogananda told him he was trying too hard and that he should place more emphasis on relaxation.
Find That Perfect Balance
We must each find a personal balance between self-effort and relaxation: trying very hard to be receptive to God’s transforming power while also relaxing enough to see that He is already with us and eternally with us.