The gardeners at Ananda Village’s organic farm had very bad news to report that morning: “A frost has wiped out the tomato crop.” “Insects are destroying the flower beds!” “Gophers have gotten into the carrots!!”

How to overcome struggles in life by Nayaswami Devi, A Touch of Light weekly inspirational blog

Haanel Cassidy

This was 1971. Our head gardener and farming mentor, Haanel Cassidy, was a vigorous man in his early seventies, who listened patiently to their tale of woe. Haanel had a lifetime of experience both in biodynamic gardening and as a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. Looking at the distressed faces of the young gardeners, he smiled ironically, and emphatically said, “Well, let’s just quit!”

Of course, they knew this wasn’t an option, and slowly they began to laugh. The gardeners learned an important lesson that day: Whatever obstacles lie in your path, face them head on, and be determined to find solutions.

I worked in Ananda’s gardens for the first four years after I joined the community. Under Haanel’s tutelage I learned a wealth about working with plants and the life force within them. But more importantly, I learned about life itself, for he was also a wise and loving friend to us young disciples.

One day, when I was going through a period of discouragement, I knocked at the door of his small geodesic dome, and asked if we could talk. We sat at his kitchen table, and I opened my heart to him about all the problems I was having and how discouraged I felt. He sat erect and still, listening quietly.

Finally I looked at him with tear-filled eyes, and asked, “Why does God make life so hard?”

He looked at me with wisdom and kindness born of experience, and answered, “There must be some value in the struggle itself.” I’ve never forgotten his words—they’ve stood me in good stead through many difficult times in my life.

What is the value of the struggle? Surely it’s to test our own inner strength, to prove our ability to overcome adversity, and to help us realize that there is an unseen, divine hand always reaching out to help us.

Haanel echoed the words of our guru, Paramhansa Yogananda: “Life is a struggle for joy all along the way. May I fight to win the battle on the very spot where I now am.”

When the garden of your life becomes overrun with problems, don’t quit, but fight. In the end, you’ll discover your inner power and joy, and the presence of the Divine General who was always guiding you forward.

With joy in your victories,
Nayaswami Devi


  1. For several years, I have journaled five to ten things to be grateful for almost every night. I like to write them on white cardstock pages using colored fine line markers. I use cardstock so I can add photos if I want to. I find that the combination of daily meditation with a cultivation of gratitude can help to bring mini synchronities ….to my life, often on the day of practice. I have serious health, financial, and relationship challenges that would cause depression were it not for the upliftment from meditation and gratitude journaling. My gratitude journaling has led me to conduct workshops, derived from my personal experience, in locations in my local area. The value lies in the experience of practicing the gratitude journaking. It becomes an important part of the day. A day or more missed brings a noticeable downward trend with more attention given to negative thinking. This is inner work that anyone can do that helps to orient thoughts towards the positive as well as deepening and expanding the awareness of gratitude. Gratitude, like love, is a state of awareness that is always there within. We just need to access it to know it is there. It is shifting the field of perception to what IS there versus focusing on what is NOT there. We become aware of the infinite number of ways to say thank you during the day.
    Thank you for the opportunity to share these insights into the awareness of gratitude and it’s expansion into greater and deeper experience. This is the first time I have replied to an online article and I appreciate the opportunity to share my experience.

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