“You had a difficult childhood to make you independent.” I had never thought of my childhood as difficult until I heard these words from a Nadi reader in India. Maybe I was in denial or maybe I just chose to focus on the positive. In any case, upon reflection, I could see how growing up with an alcoholic father was difficult. Unpredictable at best and downright scary at worst. 

So, I can relate to children and adults who don’t necessarily agree with being told during the pandemic, “It’s safer at home.” For those of us with safe, happy, and peaceful home environments, the stay-at-home orders have, at least for the most part, been a welcome respite from commuting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and sitting in cubicles in sometimes toxic work environments. 

Our home environment is intimately tied to our internal environment. Children don’t have a lot of choice in the matter. I remember me and my siblings trying on multiple occasions to run away from home. It never quite worked out. But as adults we have a lot more choices. Swami Kriyananda started one of his affirmations, “My outer life is a reflection of my inner thoughts.”

I find myself and others saying a lot these days, “Take this time to go inside.” But what happens when we don’t like what we find there? It certainly doesn’t make it any easier to go inside. Negative thoughts about yourself, criticisms of others, whirling thoughts about the past and future – it can be a mess in there! So, how do we clean up our inner environment to make it more hospitable?

Paramhansa Yogananda said, “Thoughts are things.” We sometimes think, “It’s in my head, it doesn’t affect anyone else.” But that simply isn’t true. Our thoughts send out vibrations that affect our outer environment, as Swamiji said in his affirmation, as well as those around us, and especially those that we are thinking about. For good or bad, there is no escaping the reality that our thoughts matter. But how can we clean up our mess of thoughts?

Sister Gyanamata, Yoganandaji’s most advanced woman disciple, said that we can’t control our first thought, but we can control our second thought. In other words, a disturbing thought enters your mind… and how do you respond? Do you reinforce that negative thought with another, which then begins to create a thought pattern, which ultimately becomes a deep groove of negative habits? Or do you choose to stop the negative thought in its tracks by offering a positive one in return, thus cauterizing the negativity before it can create a hostile inner environment?

Another important clue Yogananda gave on how to create a harmonious inner life: “Make your home life simple and your spiritual life deep.”

Decluttering your home and minimizing your possessions is a great practice. It makes room for abundance and prosperity to enter our lives and gives us the space to not think about so much stuff all the time. 

Finally, and most importantly, we have to give our inner life time to come back to its native state of Peace. It’s very comforting to remember Yogananda’s words, “the soul loves to meditate!” especially when we are running around like chickens with our heads cut off. He explained that the mind is like a glass of dirty water. It’s all stirred up with our restless thoughts but when we set it down, i.e. sit down to meditate, the dirt eventually settles to the bottom of the glass and we can see the clear waters of inner peace and joy. We just have to give ourselves the time and space. 

So, how about we all practice turning off our devices a little more frequently, checking the news a little less frequently, and going inside?