By Sharon Kelly, Director of Program Development and Outreach
In preparation for last Friday morning’s intern/resident circle, and in need of a little extra joy myself, I picked up How to Be Happy All the Time from Crystal Clarity’s “Wisdom of Yogananda” series. When I read this line the beginning of Chapter 2,”If you have given up hope of ever being happy, cheer up,” I smiled instantly at this simple advice and encouragement, delivered with such joyful and endearing sincerity.
We start circle on Fridays with chanting, diverging from our daily song/prayer, “Make Us Channels,” by Swami Kriyananda. Last Friday we began with several enthusiastic rounds of “God’s Power,” followed by the customary reading of the schedule, daily announcements (and generally a few jokes about the weather). When all had been announced, my relished moment arrived for an uplifting reading to take into the day. I shared the first part of the line from Yogananda, rather solemnly, “If you have given up hope of ever being happy,” I paused, then added the rest of the sentence: “Cheer up.” I watched as the joy and laughter spread through the morning group, raising the energy and bringing light to everyone’s eyes. As I read on, Yogananda says, a little more sternly, “Never lose hope.” And then the ultimate reminder, “Your soul, being the reflection of the ever-joyous Spirit, is happiness itself.”
How can something so simple seem so complicated at times? Yogananda warns, “The more widely we scatter our energies, the less power we have… Octopus habits of worry and nervousness rise from ocean depths of subconscious, fling tentacles around our minds, and crush to death all that we know of inner peace.” Yikes! It’s no wonder we’re challenged in this busy world. He says, “Restlessness itself guarantees that happiness will remain elusive.”
I hadn’t exactly thought about it that way before, or rather, I forgot, or separated these concepts somehow (another one of those “A-ha!” or “Oh, duh!” moments on the path). Restlessness blocks happiness, hmmm. We’re a pretty devotional bunch here at Laurelwood — we practice yoga and meditation multiple times daily to still the mind, live a simple life in service and devotion, observe and let go of ego attachments, likes/dislikes, etc. and, not too surprisingly, we’re generally a pretty cheerful bunch. Though, we all have our struggles and Laurelwood can be a very busy place, so this is a good reminder for us.
I find it very reassuring that if we just make the space and open the channel, then the rays of happiness will burst forth on their own. The restless mind is not easy to overcome but this idea is somehow more approachable in practice than just trying to will the happiness up from within. We have many tools for practicing and developing concentration that empower us on this journey.
One idea that we talked about, from a book called Buddha’s Brain, is to “Hush the verbal centers,” sending gentle instructions such as, “Hush, now, it’s time to relax and be quiet. There’s nothing important to talk about right now. You’ll have plenty of time to talk later…”
Of course we can also occupy the mind by repeating a prayer, chant, mantra or affirmation. By bringing in warmth, fondness or devotion to our practices and activities, we engage the brain as a whole and it helps to focus our attention.
We closed the circle with the affirmation for concentration from Affirmations for Self-Healing by Swami Kriyananda: “Whatever I do in life, I give it my full attention. Like a laser beam, I burn before me all problems, all obstructions!”
If you’re still feeling restless and unhappy, despite all efforts and practices, picture Yogananda as your boxing coach, mopping your brow with a towel and sending you into the ring with “Mr. Sorrow” and these words: “The minute he arrives, laugh at him, that will cheat him of his joy. Then kick him in the stomach. Apply the fists, limbs, and elbows of your will, and throw him entirely out of the chamber of your life.” Happiness wins! Joy to you, Sharon