In a recorded talk, my Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, remarked that he would go into the consciousness of each of his disciples every night to help them spiritually.
“I don’t pay attention to the bad,” Master said. “I only look at the good.”
It’s a common misunderstanding that concentrating on our bad habits is the way to escape from them. I remember a class I gave in which I asked people to introduce themselves by describing their best qualities.
The first few people did as I asked, but then habit took over, and those that followed described themselves according to the weaknesses they hoped to overcome, using what I would teach in the seminar that day.
Later, I led that group in another exercise. I asked them to visualize themselves in an entirely positive way, as if all of their faults had magically dissolved.
Several people in the group argued with me that such an exercise was a waste of time.
“If I don’t concentrate on my faults,” one man insisted, “how will I ever overcome them?”
I tried to explain that the most effective way to overcome our faults is to develop powerful positive magnetism and positive energy.
But he was not persuaded. I’m reminded of one woman who lived for a time in our Ananda community in California but left because, she said, in the positive, uplifting environment of Ananda she wasn’t able to remember her shortcomings. She was afraid that if she stayed at Ananda too long, eventually she would forget her shortcomings altogether.
Several of us tried to help her unravel her twisted logic. But she was not convinced.
Our shortcomings exist only on a certain level of consciousness. When we are able to raise our awareness above that level, we can overcome those shortcomings. This is a common experience that people have when they enter deep meditation for the first time. When we raise our energy to the level of the heart, for example, and when we find ourselves in communion with God’s divine love, we suddenly discover that we are unable to hold negative attitudes of resentment, hatred, and dislike for other people.
On a hot summer afternoon in 1976, a county vehicle with a faulty spark arrester set the dry bush by the side of the road on fire, a mile from Ananda Village.
A few hours later, 450 acres of Ananda’s land and 21 of our 23 homes had been burned to the ground.
Such a massive result from such a small cause! In the same way, a spark of divine love can ignite an inner fire of devotion that can burn away all our attachments and delusions.
In a poem that he wrote, titled Samadhi, Paramhansa Yogananda says:
Smoldering joy, oft-puffed by meditation
Blinding my tearful eyes,
Burst into immortal flames of bliss,
Consumed my tears, my frame, my all.
The Master comes into the heart of every devotee, and with the breath of grace, blows on the embers of our love for God until they burst into “immortal flames of bliss.”
The attempt to overcome our weaknesses by concentrating on them is like trying to weed a garden by rearranging the weeds.
Yogananda said, “You can’t remove the darkness by beating at it with a stick. Instead, turn on the light, and the darkness of ages will vanish, as if it had never existed.”
The forest fire that burned Ananda started with a single flame. But the brush was dry, and the wind was behind it. Soon it was an unstoppable force. Let us launch an unstoppable divine force within us. Let us put our energy into the positive power of devotion, so that the wind of God’s grace will fan the flames, and all of our qualities will be turned to bliss.