Paramhansa Yogananda’s teachings are filled with simple, practical advice for changing our habitual patterns of thinking and behaving. They all come back in one way or another to moving energy. The liberating concept underlying so much of his teachings is that we aren’t our habits, or our personalities, or even bodies, but WE ARE ENERGY.

The Energization Exercises are really the foundation for his deeper techniques of meditation. By daily practice with concentration, we can begin to feel ourselves as beings of energy capable of moving that energy into new positive patterns. I’ve found that I can direct that flow of energy to wherever it’s needed—for healing, for clarity of mind, for inner change, and for dynamic joy.

“I haven’t yet succeeded”

It’s easy to get discouraged with ourselves when the power of entrenched bad habits seems to be stronger than we can overcome. I’ve been greatly helped by an approach that Swami Kriyananda came up with as a college student when he was trying to give up smoking. No matter how many times his will faltered in his resolution to quit, he would always remind himself, “I haven’t yet succeeded.”

This kept his enthusiasm strong, and warded off discouragement. The day finally came when the energy moving in the positive new direction was stronger than the old habit pattern, and almost effortlessly he forever laid aside his cigarettes.

First take responsibility

How can we change old tendencies and move energy into new patterns? We first have to take responsibility for our own karma. Only then can we introduce new patterns. People often blame others, or adverse circumstances, or unlucky events for their difficulties. But, the truth is that we draw, to ourselves, certain types of problems (which are really lessons) according to the level of our consciousness. And we’ll continue to draw the same lessons until we, ourselves, change.

Most people try to get rid of troubles by changing everything except themselves. It is like sitting in a mud puddle, blaming the water and the earth for making one dirty. There is no solution to the problem of how to stay clean so long as you remain in the mud puddle. And there is no permanent relief from old karmic patterns until you get out of your self-created mire by changing your consciousness. If you raise your level of awareness, the problems that cluster around your present level will disappear. This is why Lahiri Mahasaya said Kriya Yoga was the answer for every problem.

“Give the problem to God”

Recently someone mentioned that they had been given the advice to “give the problem to God” and asked how to do this more effectively. Giving something to God is the easy part. The difficulty is that we usually take our issues back again before He has a chance to do anything about them. This stems, in large part, from a lack of faith. And how do we develop faith? Faith, unlike belief, reaches into very deep levels of our consciousness and grows slowly as actual experiences teach us that we can trust in the Divine.

To permanently give something to God takes effort on our part. Don’t expect God and gurus to do the work for you. Ask them, rather, to help you develop the right attitudes and habits, positive qualities that counteract the harmful traits you want to change. If, for example, you’re having trouble with anger, pray for help in developing a calm, peaceful mental outlook. Next, work to retrain your mind in a positive direction, for example, by using an affirmation.

Then, when you “give” God and guru your tendency to get angry you will already have started to shift your energy patterns. God and Guru will then reinforce your efforts. This is what Paramhansa Yogananda meant when he said it is “25% our effort, 25% the guru’s effort on our behalf, and 50% the grace of God.

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