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The Beast in the Jungle

It’s no question that we’re living in very challenging times. Many friends have told us that with all the uncertainty and stress around them now, the days and weeks seem to run together in a blur. They’re either waiting for life to return to normal; hoping that things will improve; or fearing that they will only get worse. This cycle of waiting, hoping, and fearing can keep us from accepting life as it is, and from living in the present.

I once read a short story called “The Beast in the Jungle,” by Henry James. In it, the protagonist has a sense that something of great portent is going to happen to him. Although he’s not sure if it will be something wonderful or terrible, he waits for the “beast in the jungle” to present itself.

He puts everything in his life on hold waiting for this impending event, and misses opportunities offered to him in career and marriage. Gradually life passes him by as he waits, and finally in despair he realizes that rather than living his life, he has merely waited for something to happen that never did.

So, my friend, how can we break the cycle of waiting, hoping, and fearing that many people are experiencing due to the stress of our times? Swami Kriyananda wrote in his book of daily aphorisms, Living Wisely, Living Well: “True happiness is not the fruit of years of painful struggle and anxiety. It is a long succession, rather, of little decisions simply to be happy in the moment. As my Guru said, ‘The minutes are more important than the years.’”

We need to take back the reins of our life by constant, small decisions to live well in the present moment. Fortunately Paramhansa Yogananda gave us a powerful tool in the Energization Exercises to help in this effort. Even the simple prayer before practicing them can be a guide to living each day wisely: “O Infinite Spirit, recharge my body with Thy cosmic energy, my mind with Thy concentration, my soul with Thy ever-new joy. O eternal youth of body and mind, abide in me forever and forever.”

Energy, concentration, and joy: These are all weapons to defeat the beast of waiting, hoping, and fearing that lurks in shadows of our consciousness. Here are a few suggestions based on Yoganandaji’s teachings to awaken them:


  1. Live a healthy lifestyle: Eat well, mainly fresh fruits and vegetables; exercise regularly, preferably outdoors; and sleep well, but not too much.
  2. Do something every day that challenges you and makes use of your willpower.
  3. Do the Energization Exercises daily.


  1. Bring focused attention to everything you do, no matter how unimportant it may seem.
  2. Spend less time talking and more time being quietly aware.
  3. Do the Hong-Sau technique of concentration daily.


  1. Have a positive mental outlook: “Say ‘Yes!’ to life.”
  2. Help others to find happiness in their lives.
  3. Learn Kriya Yoga and practice it daily. This strengthens your soul’s connection with God—the true source of inner joy.

Paramhansa Yogananda tells us that in a past life, he was the great warrior Arjuna in the epic battle recounted in the Mahabharata. He demonstrated then and now how to overcome the enemies that threaten to destroy our inner peace and happiness. So when you feel beaten down by your tests, follow the example of this mighty spiritual soldier, and remember his words: “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.”

Joining you in our fight for victory,

Nayaswami Devi