In 1937 Yogananda wrote to his most advanced disciple, Rajarshi Janakananda, “I used to come home, my hair saturated with smoke and my eyes burning after luncheon talks. I felt even suffocated. One day I made up my mind, Divine Spirit was smoke and light, and I was never bothered since. Mind is everything, whichever way you train it.”
Mind is everything. What a powerful truth! It is almost as if the entire spiritual path can be reduced to this concept: The essential spiritual battle is to see that fulfillment lies within, rather than by changing outside conditions.
The world of the senses and maya (illusion) constantly tries to trick us into focusing outward, on things and circumstances. This is the lesson of the famous gambling scene in the great epic, the Mahabharata. Yudhisthira, who represents discrimination, and Shakuni, who represents material attachment, play a game of dice in which Yudhisthira loses his kingdom. With every roll of the dice, Shakuni proclaims, “Lo, I have won!” Of course he wins. He cheats! We, too, gamble with delusion, but delusion always wins. As Yogananda put it, one thing you can be certain of is that delusion never keeps it promises.
“Mind is everything, whichever way you train it.” With a puff of smoke, Yogananda gives us a universal solution to the problems in our lives.
So how can we train ourselves to be happy regardless of circumstances? Here are several ways that have worked for me, although you may well have other strategies that work for you.
1) Reframe the problem. Yogananda couldn’t change those smokey rooms, so he reframed the problem. He realized that smoke was not the real difficulty, but rather his seeing smoke as something other than Divine Spirit. As soon as he reframed the problem as one of perception rather than conditions, the battle was won.
2) Practice our techniques. There are many techniques that can help us choose to be happy in spite of what is happening. In tense moments, we can gain control of the mind by controlling our breath through regular breathing. We can use affirmations to help us turn our thoughts and reactions in a positive direction. We can focus our energy powerfully at the spiritual eye. For those who know them, both the Energization Exercises and Kriya are very powerful, even life-changing.
3) Shift to the here and now. Many problems, such as worry, judgment, or disappointment, exist only in the mind. By focusing in the present we can stop these mental tapes from cycling through their incessant repetitions.
4) Divert the mind. The first step toward reversing negative reactions is to introduce a positive flow of energy. Sometimes, the best short-term solution is just to do something fun. Take a walk in nature, have a good laugh, paint, cook, dance, or sing. It doesn’t matter what you do, only that you enjoy it. During enjoyment, you forget yourself and your problems for a little while.
The most important thing of all is to realize, I can choose! I can choose to be happy in all circumstances. I can choose to be loving regardless of how I am treated. I can choose to be calm and peaceful no matter what storms howl around me.
Joy, love, peace, calmness are all different aspects of the Divine. By choosing these, we choose to swim in the sea of Divine Spirit. Then, as Yogananda said in his great poem, “Samadhi”:
A tiny bubble of laughter, I
Am become the Sea of Mirth Itself.
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