By Keshava Betts
March 7, 2017
When I was growing up my father always offered me the sage advice, “Practice moderation in all things.” He usually brought that quote up when I was busy overindulging in my third plate of macaroni-and-cheese, but as I grew older I began to realize that, as Krishna says, the Golden Middle Path applies to all areas of life, not only healthy eating habits.
Over the last ten months I’ve been practicing Yogananda’s Energization Exercises six times a day. I will shamelessly admit that I began this practice with the desire to super-charge my energetic capacity, with the hopes of using that energy to blast all obstacles from my path. For the first few months, I practiced the exercises with great willpower, but I failed to equally emphasize the relaxation portion – I wasn’t emphasising the feeling quality.
I started feeling like something was missing. I realized that great energy without receptivity to God is like Arjuna without Krishna. In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna represents our third chakra, our fiery self-control and center of willpower. Krishna represents God, and our Guru. When Arjuna and Krishna are united, they are invincible.
I began to realize that emphasising willpower only was like Arjuna refusing to allow Krishna to pilot his chariot, and being determined to fight alone. Whereas feeling, or receptivity without willpower, or willingness, was like Arjuna allowing Krishna to be his charioteer, but refusing to fight himself! Suddenly my father’s advice came back to me with greater depth than before.
I then set out to try and equally emphasise both qualities; immense willpower, and deep feeling. After some time, not only did my understanding of the Energization Exercises grow, but other, beautiful, changes began to take place within me.
I started discovering a much deeper state of silence in my meditations. Before, the techniques were my favorite part, and sitting in the silence afterwards seemed almost a chore. Now, dropping the techniques and focusing on deep receptivity is the most joyous, and powerful part of my meditations!
In physics there is a speed they call escape velocity. In essence, it is the speed needed for any object to break away from the earth’s gravitation pull and escape into space. In meditation, I started to think of the techniques as my engine; accelerating me as close to that escape velocity as possible; and sitting in the silence at the end is when my rocket ship of concentration breaks away from the gravitational pull of worldly desires and soared effortlessly in Spirit.
Now I am trying to bring this attitude of balance into every circumstance. Before I begin my daily work, I pray, “God, show me the best way to serve you today,” When I’m confronted by an obstacle (or rather, an opportunity), I ask, “Lord, show me the best way to overcome this,” and then I act, applying all the force of my will to my given task.
I’ve also been practicing a few simple techniques to help bring this awareness deeper into my daily practice:
Energization Exercises: With equal emphasis on tension and relaxation.
2) Alternate Nostril Breathing: I practice this simple pranayama before every meditation and consciously try to balance and enliven both qualities in myself.
3) Chanting: I try to pair two chants, one to awaken willpower and another to open the heart.
There is a quote from the Autobiography of a Yogi that I read every day that has given me continual inspiration. Yogananda beautifully writes, “Sri Yukteswar fitted the Vedic definition of a man of God: ‘Softer than the flower, where kindness is concerned: Stronger than the thunder, where principles are at stake.’”