Below is an inspiring article written by the Indian mystic Paramahansa Yogananda in the 1930s that encourages us to better manage our emotions because that is the key to health and happiness.
[Yoga] is a comprehensive system, a method to bring the individual into complete and balanced harmony with the great plan of the universe. There are many forces at work seeking to destroy this balance, to produce disease, fear, poverty, failure, and unhappiness. These forces attack the individual to upset his physical, mental, and spiritual balance. The great secret of mastering these forces was known for ages by the great Hindu saints, and it enabled them to live far beyond the usual term of life in perfect youthfulness of body and mind, and in perfect spiritual harmony.
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There are only two ways to travel in life: one leads to happiness and the other to sorrow. There is no mystery about life; it is very simple in spite of its apparent complexities. You should look at life unmasked, in the mirror of your experiences. View time and space as they come to you in the form of problems, experiences, and relations. Look at the perpetual current of emotions and thoughts that arise within you. Go into the heart of your aspirations, dreams, hopes, and despairs. Dive deep into the mute cravings of your inner self. Life is manifesting itself through all these channels and demanding that you seek understanding with your highest intelligence, wisdom, love, and vision.
Sorrow has no being of its own. It has no objective existence, but arises rather in the subjective nature of the sufferer. Constantly you affirm sorrow, therefore it exists. Deny it in your mind and it will exist no longer. This assertion of the Self is what I call the hero in man. It is his divine o r essential nature. In order to acquire freedom from sorrow, man must assert his heroic self in all his daily activities. Sorrow is not necessary for the progressive march of life, although the birth of joy seemingly comes out of pain.
In our relative existence it is evident that the conditions and circumstances surrounding life are conducive either to sorrow or to happiness, as if in their very nature they were either desirable or undesirable. The root of sorrow lies in the dearth of heroism and courage in the character of the average man. When the heroic element is lacking in the mental makeup of a person, his mind becomes susceptible to the threat of all passing sorrows. Mental conquest brings happiness into life, but sorrow arises out of mental defeat. As long as the conqueror in man is awake, no sorrow can cast its shadow over the threshold of his heart.
RISE ABOVE CIRCUMSTANCES
Tears and sighs on the battlefield of life are the liquid cowardice of weak minds. Those who give up the fight become prisoners within the walls of their own ignorance. Life is worth nothing if it is not a continuous overcoming of problems. Each problem that waits for a solution at your hand is a religious duty imposed upon you by life itself. Any escape from problems, physical or mental, is an escape from life, as there can be no life that is not full of problems. Essentially, conditions are neither good nor bad; they are always neutral, seeming to be either depressing or encouraging because of the sad or bright attitude of the mind of the individual concerned with them.
When a person mentally sinks below the level of circumstances, he surrenders himself to the influence of bad times, ill luck, and sorrow. If he rises above circumstances by the heroic courage that is in him, all conditions of life, however dark and threatening, will be like a blanket of mist that will disappear with the warm glance of the sun. The sorrows of the ordinary person do not arise out of the conditions of life; they are not inherent in the conditions. They are born out of the weaknesses and infirmities of the human mind and the effects of human experiences. Awaken the victor in yourself, arouse the sleeping hero in yourself, and lo! No sorrow will ever again overwhelm you.
Ignorant people, like some animals, do not heed the lessons that accompany pain and pleasure. Most people live a life checkered with sadness and sorrow. They do not avoid the actions that lead to suffering, and do not follow the ways that lead to happiness. Then there are people who are over-sensitive to sorrow and happiness. Such persons are usually extremely crushed by sorrow and overwhelmed by joy, thus losing their mental balance. There are very few people who, even after burning their fingers in the fire of ignorance, learn to avoid misery-making acts. People wish to be happy, and yet most of them never make the effort to adopt the course of action that leads to happiness. Lacking imagination, they keep rolling down the hill of life, only mentally wishing to climb the peak of happiness, until something terrible happens to arouse them from their nightmare of folly. Usually it is only then, if their enthusiasm for happiness survives the crash to the bottom of unhappiness, that they wake up.
DO NOT POISON PEACE BY ANGER
Anger defeats the very purpose for which it is aroused. Anger is not an antidote for anger. A strong wrath may cause another to suppress his weaker wrath, but it will never kill that weaker wrath. When you are angry, say nothing. Knowing it is a disease, like the coming of a cold, break it up by mental warm baths consisting of thinking of those with whom you can never be angry, no matter how they behave. If your emotion is too violent, take a cold shower, or put a piece of ice on the medulla oblongata (back of your head, at the base) and the temples just above the ears, and on the forehead, especially between the eyebrows, and on the top of the head.
Anger gives birth to jealousy, hatred, spite, revengefulness, destructive instinct, wild ideas, brain paralysis, and temporary insanity–any of which may lead to horrible crimes. It is poison to peace and calmness. It is poison to understanding. Anger is a manner of misunderstanding. To conquer others by anger is the method of fools, for anger only rouses more wrath in the enemy and thus makes him a stronger and more powerful opponent. A righteous demonstration of anger to avert evil without causing harm is sometimes productive of good. Blind, uncontrolled anger is revengeful, spiteful; it only increases the evil that you wish to destroy. Be indifferent to those who seem to enjoy making you angry.
When anger comes, set your machinery of calmness in motion to manufacture the antidotes of peace, love, and forgiveness which banish anger. Think of love, and reflect that even as you do not want others to be angry with you, neither do you wish others to feel your ugly anger. When you become Christ-like and look upon all humanity as little brothers hurting one another (“for they know not what they do”), you cannot feel angry with anyone. Ignorance is the mother of all anger.
Develop metaphysical reason and destroy anger. Look upon the anger-arousing agent as a child of God; think of him as a little five-year-old baby brother who perhaps has unwittingly stabbed you. You should not feel a desire to stab this little brother in return. Mentally destroy anger by saying: “I will not poison my peace with anger; I will not disturb my habitual joy-giving calmness with wrath.”
Secret fear creates tension and anxiety, and brings ultimate collapse. We must have faith in our ability, and hope in the triumph of a righteous cause. If we do not possess these qualities, we must create them in our own minds through concentration. This can be accomplished by determined and long -continued practice. Fortunately, we can start practicing any time and any place, concentrating upon developing those good qualities in which we are defective. If we are lacking in will power, let us concentrate upon that, and through conscious effort we shall be able to create strong will power in ourselves. If we want to relieve ourselves of fear, we should meditate upon courage, and in due time we shall be freed from the bondage of fear. Through concentration and meditation we make ourselves powerful. This new power enables us to focus our attention upon one point at a time, and continual practice for an extended period will enable us to concentrate our energy upon a single problem or a single responsibility without any effort. It will become second nature to us. Possessed with this new quality, we shall succeed in our life’s undertakings, whether spiritual or material.
As soon as the soldiers of wrong thoughts rally to attack your inner peace, it is time to wake up the soul soldiers of light, honesty, self-control, and desire for good things, and to wage furious battle. It rests with you whether you want greed, sense slavery, anger, hatred, revengefulness, worries, or inharmonies to rule your life, or whether you will let the divine soldiers of self-control, calmness, love, forgiveness, peace, and harmony govern your mental kingdom. Drive away those rebel sense habits that have brought misery to the empire of your peace. Be king over yourself, letting the soldiers of goodness and good habits rule the kingdom of your mind. Then happiness will reign within you forever.
You must possess courage, faith, and hope. Courage is needed to fight against dreaded fear. We have said before that fear destroys life. There are many people who will not even attempt to work because they are desperately afraid of not succeeding. They feel that they are not competent enough to do the work, and thus meet failure even before starting. The Bhagavad Gita describes how Arjuna, at first overwhelmed with fear of losing courage on the battlefield, braces up and performs his sacred duty.
Always know that every day is a fresh opportunity on the part of the human ego to perform more and more exploits of heroism. Meet everybody and every circumstance on the battlefield of life with the courage of a hero and the smile of a conqueror. Whatever comes your way and needs attention must be considered as a duty. Duty is not imposed upon man by some superior power. It is the inherent urge of life toward progression; therefore, duty is action that needs care. Neglect of duty is a source of evil that can be avoided by wisdom.
ALL IS IN GOD
Avoid associating with those who are always complaining about life. They may ruin your newly awakened spirituality, which is like a tender plant growing within you. Avoid such people and try to be always happy, no matter how you are situated. God will never reveal Himself to you unless you are contented and happy. You must saturate everything with the thought of God. Realize that all that exists is centered in God.
Be silent and calm every night for at least half an hour, preferably much longer, before you retire, and again in the morning before starting the day’s activity. This will produce an undaunted, unbreakable inner habit of happiness that will make you able to meet all the trying situations of the everyday battle of life. With that unchangeable happiness within, go about seeking to fulfill the demands of your daily needs. Seek happiness more and more in your mind, and less and less in the desire to acquire things. Be so happy in your mind that nothing that comes can possibly make you unhappy. Then you can get along without things that you have been accustomed to. Be happy because you know that you have acquired the power not to be negative, and because you know, too, that you can acquire at will whatever you need, and that you will never again become so material-minded that you will forget your inner happiness, even though you should become a millionaire.
THOUGHTS TO LIVE BY
Unselfishness draws everybody, including one’s own self, into the circle of brotherhood. It brings many harvests — return service from others, self-expansion, divine sympathy, lasting happiness, and Self-realization.
Feeling the sorrows of others in order to help free them from further suffering, seeking happiness in the joy of others, and constantly trying to satisfy the needs of bigger and bigger groups of people, is what you might call being “sacredly selfish. ” The man of sacred selfishness counts all his earthly losses as deliberately brought about by himself for the good of others, and for his own great and ultimate gain. He lives to love his brethren, for he knows that they are all the children of the One God. His entire selfishness is sacred for whenever he thinks, not of the small body and mind of ordinary understanding, but of the needs of all bodies and minds within the range of his acquaintance or influence, his self then becomes one with the Self of all. He becomes the mind and feelings of all creatures. So when he does anything for himself, he can only do that which is good for all. He who considers himself as one whose body and limbs consist of all humanity and all creatures, he is the one who certainly finds the universal, all-pervading Spirit in himself.