Learning about Magnetism: A Personal Journey

My slowly deepening understanding of magnetism and the part it plays in our successes and failures involved many experiences with Swami Kriyananda. Generally speaking, everyone’s faults are their virtues taken to an extreme. I’m a very enthusiastic person. I love becoming engaged in a project, but sometimes I overdo it and become too enthusiastic and much too engaged. Swami Kriyananda rarely encouraged me to work more, but he often encouraged me to pull my energy to a focus. He said to me once:

“You won’t do more good by simply doing more. Doing things on this planet is simply the way we generate a field of energy and magnetism. If your consciousness is not dynamic and focused, you won’t create the right kind of magnetism simply by doing more.”

Since that time, Kriyananda’s statement has been my guide. As soon as I feel that what I’m doing is no longer generating the right kind of magnetism, I know that it’s time for me to step back, reassess the situation, and correct the magnetism.

Creativity: the secret of prosperity
In the mid-1970s, a group of us were discussing prosperity with Kriyananda in Houston. I asked him, “What is the secret of prosperity?” He gave me a one-word answer which I have always remembered: creativity. Prosperity, he explained, is the result of the determination to keep trying until something finally works. As long as we keep our energy focused and positive, we simply keep going until we succeed.

During this same time we were in Houston, Spiritual Renewal Week at Ananda Village was approaching. Each year around this time Kriyananda would always announce, “I think we’re going to have two hundred people at Spiritual Renewal Week this year. And almost to a person, everyone would say, “Yeah, sure Swamiji.” And the usual 30-40 would come.

This time in Houston, catching my thought, Kriyananda simply looked at me. Then he said, “I know perfectly well we’re not going to have two hundred people for Spiritual Renewal Week, but if I didn’t say we were going to have two hundred, we wouldn’t even have thirty.”

During those early years at Ananda Village, I would often say to myself, “Everything that I’ve learned about life, I learned from this man.  He’s very intelligent and has all the facts at his disposal. And if he still says we’re going to have two hundred people at Spiritual Renewal Week this year, I think I’m the one who doesn’t know something.”

I think it was almost the last day of Spiritual Renewal Week one year when Kriyananda started saying how everything was going to go well that day. Once again I was becoming skeptical but then I remembered our spiritual teachings: This world is just energy. And events are created first by thoughts, energy, and magnetism. I was beginning to understand the concept of magnetism.

The difference between truth and fact
Once during an especially challenging time at Ananda, Kriyananda said to me, “Sometimes you can be negative.” Negative? I never thought of myself that way. Then he explained that it was that I was so factual, and didn’t understand the difference between truth and fact. I said, “Well, sir, sometimes I respond that way because I don’t like what I believe is an unwillingness to face courageously what is.”

What Kriyananda tended to do in the face of a challenge was to test the energy. He would float a thought and then see what the response would be. If there was no response, he would withdraw. Often he would float a thought (predicting two hundred people at Spiritual Renewal Week, for example) as a way to generate positive magnetism.

However, being so factual, I would actually block the energy; I wouldn’t let the energy get a toe hold. When I saw what I was doing and mentioned it to him, he said sweetly but very firmly, “Yes, it’s a fine line. You have to be very careful.”

We can only do what we can do, but we must also remember not to become negative by being too factual. Otherwise, we won’t be able to generate positive magnetism.

The planning department: an “old-boy” network
In 1976, Ananda was trying to get its first master plan approved by the Nevada County Planning Department. This effort marked the beginning of our formal relationship with the county. The people with whom we were dealing were not cooperative. The woman in charge of the planning department at that time had risen from being a secretary to being the planning department director. A grand jury had already recommended that the woman be fired for incompetency, but someone was sitting on that report.

The first time a small group of us went to Nevada City with Swami Kriyananda to meet with this woman, we explained who we were in a very cheerful manner: a spiritual community functioning primarily as a farm.  After listening to us, she took a book from a shelf, opened it up and said, “So, you’re a condominium.” A condominium? We were just a farm. “No,” she insisted, we were a condominium.

That was only the beginning. One of the plans we submitted was rejected on the ground that it was too detailed. The next one we submitted wasn’t detailed enough. Thereafter, whatever we submitted, the planning director always managed to find something wrong. Kriyananda became convinced that Ananda would never get its master plan approved unless we got rid of the woman serving as planning director.

Bi-Centennial Liberty Committee
The year was 1976, and Swami Kriyananda announced to the community that we going to form the Bi-Centennial Liberty Committee and get this person fired. We went forward not as Ananda but as the Bi-Centennial Liberty Committee. Kriyananda used his given name, J. Donald Walters, and I also used my given name, Nan Savage. The plan was to take petitions endorsing the American way of life and stand outside of K-Mart, Safeway and SPD (the other large market in town), and get thousands of people to sign the petitions. We would then present them to the board of supervisors.

Without mentioning my name, Kriyananda writes about me in his course, Material Success through Yoga Principles, when he discusses how to work effectively with people. He states that you should first find what motivates people and then try to motivate them according to what you know will work.

When discussing the Bi-Centennial Liberty Committee project with me, Kriyananda presented it as a big lark because he knew I had a good sense of humor and that a seemingly goofy project like this would be just my “cup of tea.” I said to myself, “What the heck?” I didn’t have the foggiest idea of what we were doing, but I was certain that Kriyananda did. I didn’t need to know. I was training myself to give my whole heart to a project because my spiritual teacher thought it was a good idea.

“Okay, let’s get this plan done.”
Soon we had a few dozen of us from Ananda Village standing outside Safeway collecting signatures. Over the course of a summer, and with Kriyananda in charge, we created an entirely new thrust to get our master plan approved. Among other tasks, he directed me to write letters to the editor of the Grass Valley Union about the sheriff, the building inspectors, and how the planning codes were unfair.

Basically what happened is that we created a big “brouhaha.” We collected thousands of signatures which we presented to the supervisors to show how irate everyone was about the unfairness of the situation. We even succeeded in getting editorials in the newspaper supportive of our goals and, very soon, the woman in charge of the planning department was fired. She was replaced by a very competent man whose approach was, “Okay, let’s get this plan done.”

It was Kriyananda’s belief, and I agreed, that our master plan would never have been approved if we hadn’t pushed in these ways. In the aftermath, there were some people in the area who wanted me to run for county supervisor, but we weren’t seeking political power. We just needed to extricate ourselves from a difficult, seemingly “no-win” situation.

Energy has its own intelligence.
To generate magnetism, we don’t always need to understand everything we are doing. But when we decide to take action, we need to do so with our whole heart because energy has its own intelligence. When with courage, creativity and a great deal of willingness to say, “We’ll keep trying until we make it happen,” we can achieve our goals. If we try to make something happen relying only on money or will power, we are much less likely to succeed.

It’s also important to reach out to people from the heart, because once we love people, the door to success is open. That’s how Kriyananda has won all of us over the years. He’s the instrument for Paramhansa Yogananda and, in so far as we are able, we are Yogananda’s instrument through him.

The sooner, the more deeply, and the more wholeheartedly we begin to live our own lives in that divine reality, the sooner we will fulfill our divine destinies. Become a jivan mukta? Why not? Why not become free in God? Swami Kriyananda has shown us the way. The footsteps to the gates of freedom are right in front of us. All we have to do is walk in them.

From an August 2012 talk at Ananda Village.


Asha Nayaswami is Co-Spiritual Director of Ananda Palo Alto. She is the author of Ask Asha, Miracles and Answered Prayers, and Swami Kriyananda As We Have Known Him. She is currently working on a new book about the history of Ananda through the lens of her experiences with Swami Kriyananda.

For other discussions by Asha, go to Asha Nayaswami.

The Essence of Clarity

Sharing the Teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda


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