USC Dornsife College Of Letters Arts and Sciences

University of Southern California

Bridges Over Troubled Waters

“Constantly Attuning the Mind to God: Reflections on a Year in Lockdown” by Brother Balananda

The founder of Self-Realization Fellowship, Paramahansa Yogananda — who is widely regarded as the Father of Yoga in the West — shared this prayer-affirmation: “Dear Father, whatever conditions confront me, I know that they represent the next step in my unfoldment. I will welcome all tests because I know that within me is the intelligence to understand and the power to overcome.

These words are so applicable during this COVID-19 pandemic, which has been a tremendous test for so many. Yet, Yogananda often explained that this world, with its tests, is in a sense a spiritual “school” in which we are meant to learn life’s lessons. He said, “Use every trial that comes to you as an opportunity to improve yourself.

One of the most powerful means for self-improvement is through strengthening our minds. And we can do this — even during difficult times such as we are going through — by thinking positive thoughts, by practicing affirmations and, most importantly, through applying scientific methods of meditation. The deeper we meditate, the more we are able to realize that we are not these physical bodies, but rather we are an immortal soul, capable of using infinite inner resources to transcend all fears, limitations and anxieties.

So, in Self-Realization Fellowship, this past year has actually been an opportunity for spiritual growth. Many of our members have used this time to meditate more deeply, to pray for others, to reflect on how to improve themselves and how to serve others through acts of kindness. We have heard of members who have reached out to others who may have lost their jobs or had real financial challenges and offered them accommodations in their homes until they could get back on their feet. Some of our younger members have aided seniors by buying groceries or medical necessities for them, and by finding ways to stay in touch so they don’t feel isolated. These acts of selflessness are very much a part of Paramahansa Yogananda’s aims and ideals “to serve mankind as one’s larger Self.

During this COVID lockdown, our members have shared how they have been drawn closer to their families, and how their homes have become the centers of their spiritual life. They have used their time to focus more deeply on their spiritual lives through their own daily efforts and study of the techniques of meditation taught by Paramahansa Yogananda, and by participating in SRF’s greatly expanded online programs, which include meditations, inspirational services, our Worldwide Prayer Circle, study groups and all-day retreats. One member said, “It seems God has used the COVID lockdown to reach into our homes to create a wellspring of in-home spirituality!

I would like to close with these words of Paramahansaji: “God has given us one tremendous instrument of protection — more powerful than machine guns, electricity, poison gas, or any medicine — 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 to the Lord. 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 easiest way to overcome disease, disappointments, and disasters is to be in constant attunement with God.