What should I do? This is the question we hear most frequently. It might take the form of “What should I do about a short temper?” or “What should I do about my mind wandering during meditation?” Simply asking “What should I do?” means that you’re ready to move beyond passivity and engage your willpower. Congratulate yourself whenever you ask this question, because you are halfway to the solution.
Here is some general advice:
1. Start with externals: It is easier to control physical things than thoughts, so start there. Feel sluggish? Then stand up straight and breathe deeply for one minute, or do one or two energization exercises. Feeling sad? Put on some uplifting music, read something inspirational, or find a way to help someone else. Do you have trouble meditating regularly? Go to a satsang or take a class in person or online. Is your mind restless during your meditations? Start by keeping your body absolutely still. You get the point: For every problem there will be an external practice that will get you started in the right direction.
2. Think positively: It is a little harder to control your thoughts, but it is doable. Positive thinking creates a flow of prana and has a domino effect that includes beneficial results for the brain and hormones. The key is to derail negative thought patterns before they have a chance to gather momentum. Many people find that a simple affirmation will neutralize the problem, especially if they repeat it as soon as the first thought arises. It also helps to bring your mind to the spiritual eye with a surge of upward energy. Perhaps the single most helpful practice is to develop the habit of being grateful. Thank God for everything, including when a challenge arises.
3. Enlist the help of God and Gurus.Paramhansa Yogananda said that our part is only 25% of what is needed. The guru does another 25% of the work on our behalf and God does the other 50%. That means that calling on them for help is four times as effective as trying to do it on your own. Try to connect deeply with God in meditation, and then keep that contact alive throughout the day.
In my last blog I asked people to describe the practices they find most spiritually helpful, and we received nearly eighty replies. Nothing can be a substitute for reading the responses themselves and seeing the richness of practical and inspiring advice, but here are five themes mentioned most often:
1) I practice gratitude.
2) I pray to God in meditation and ask His advice during the day.
3) I repeat an affirmation or mantra.
4) I attune to Master through visualizing him or gazing at his photo with deep attention.
5) I feel that God is acting through me in every activity.
I suggest that you read the responses and make a list of those things you find most personally helpful. Then, when you are wondering, “What should I do?” you will have a place to start.