If you don’t know who Paramahansa Yogananda was, you can brief yourself on his life and accomplishments here, and his advice on good business practice here. Though of course contentious opinions abound, among the oft-marred posthumous reputations of spiritual teachers, Yogananda stands as somewhat of a rarity, appearing to have reached a very high level mastery, and being remembered, for the most part, as a man whose life was devoted to bringing deep truths to the world that held the power to liberate it from suffering.
As all great masters do, he taught that humanity cannot be healed until the individual is healed. And as anyone involved in modern, active life knows, one of the greatest detriments to healing is stress.
Having built the Self-Realization Fellowship from the ground up in his 20’s, and braving a considerable amount of resistance and controversy as he did so, Yogananda’s advice on taming the mind differs from that of many modern thinkers and self-help experts in that it is experiential. It comes from someone whose conceptual knowledge of intuitive truths were actually put to the test and honed through real-life trials.
While it is safe to assume that the lives of most people are built around the avoidance of their deepest fears and anxieties, or that they experience considerable stress if they are brave enough to face them — stress that is often harmful to their physical, as well as mental health — Yogananda differs in that, according to his own and others’ accounts, he experienced neither.
Here, then, are 10 quotes on conquering fear and anxiety from someone whose life was a testament to both fortitude and inner peace.
- Attachments keep you ever fearful. The more a person’s body-consciousness expands – to include such things as a sense of possessions, a concern for one’s reputation, a sense of personal power or importance – the greater the likelihood of feeling fear. Fearlessness, on the other hand, comes from releasing those attachments: the desire for personal importance; the desire for power or control over anything or anyone; the desire to be well thought of and respected; attachment to possessions; attachment to bodily health and well-being; and, finally, identification of one’s self with the body. Fearlessness comes with perfect non-attachment. It is a natural attitude for those who feel they have nothing to protect.
- Learn to accept with an unruffled mind whatever comes. I often say, “What comes of itself, let it come.” This is just as true for the bad things in life as for the good. When I was young I practiced watching myself as from the outside: eating, bathing, walking, carrying out my responsibilities, and so on. This practice felt a bit strange at first, but in the end, it gave me a wonderful sense of freedom and non-attachment.
- Worry thoughts are a habit. They act like a poisonous drug on the mind. Learn to remove the causes of your worries without permitting them to worry you. Where the worries and trials of everyday life are concerned, the mind must be like water, which does not retain any impression of the waves that play on its surface.
- Shake off your worries by going on “worry fasts.” Go on short worry fasts three times a day to begin with. Take an hour in the morning, an hour at noon, and three hours in the evening. Absolutely refuse to allow a single worry thought to enter your mind during these periods. Then extend the period to a whole day; a week, and then a month. Soon you will have broken the insidious hold of worry thoughts…
- Fear is nourished by thinking constantly of dire possibilities, until these take root in the subconscious. These fear seeds germinate and fill the mind with fear plants bearing poisonous fruits. If you are unable to dislodge the haunting fear of ill health or failure, divert your mind by turning your attention to interesting, absorbing books, or even to harmless amusements. After the mind forgets its haunting fear, encourage it to discover and root out the causes of failure and ill health in the soil of your daily life.
- Associate with joyous persons, for joy and laughter are contagious. There are some people the joy of whose laughter nothing can still. Seek them out, and feast with them on this most vitalizing food of joy. Steadfastly continue your laughter diet, and at the end of a month or two you will see a change –– your mind will be filled with sunshine.
- Fear comes from the heart. If ever you feel overcome by dread of some illness or accident, you should inhale and exhale deeply, slowly, and rhythmically several times, relaxing with each exhalation. This helps the circulation to become normal. If your heart is truly quiet you cannot feel fear at all.
- God has given us one tremendous instrument of protection — more powerful than machine guns, electricity, poison gas, or any medic — the mind. It is the mind that must be strengthened… An important part of the adventure of life is to get hold of the mind, and to keep that controlled mind constantly attuned… This is the secret of a happy, successful existence… It comes by exercising mind power and by attuning the mind to God through meditation…
- The cure for fear is to remain ever calm, giving little weight to the trials that beset you while striving always to do your best. The mind must manifest calmness. Calmness is more dynamic and powerful than peace. Calmness gives the devotee power to overcome all the obstacles in his life. Even in human affairs, the person who can remain calm under all circumstances is invincible. Calmness will give you a sense of correct proportion and inspire you to behave with unfailing good sense, without concern for the possible reactions of others.
- Remember, if you still fear something, that karma has not yet been worked out. To dissipate it, don’t try to avoid the tests you have to face. Karma is best worked out by meeting pleasantly every test that comes, and by accepting courageously any hardships your tests impose. An important factor in overcoming karma is meditation. Every time you meditate, your karma decreases…