(From Paramahansa Yogananda’s talks and writings)
Your greatest enemies are your bad habits. They will follow you from one incarnation to another until you overcome them. In order to free yourself from fate, you must cure yourself of bad habits. How? Good company is one of the best medicines. If you have a tendency to drink, mix with people who do not. If you are suffering from ill health, be with people who have positive minds, who don’t think about sickness. If you have the consciousness of failure, associate with those who have the consciousness of success. Then you will begin to change.
Each of your habits creates a specific “groove,” or pathway, in the brain. These patterns make you behave in a certain way, often against your wish. Your life follows those grooves that you yourself have created in the brain. In that sense you are not a free person; you are more or less a victim of the habits you have formed. Depending on how set those patterns are, to that degree you are a puppet. But you can neutralize the dictates of those bad habits. How? By creating brain patterns of opposite good habits. And you can completely erase the grooves of bad habits by meditation. There is no other way. However, you can’t cultivate good habits without good company and good environment. And you can’t free yourself from bad habits without good company and meditation.
Every time you meditate deeply on God, beneficial changes take place in the patterns of your brain. Suppose you are a financial failure or a moral failure or a spiritual failure. Through deep meditation, affirming, “I and my Father are one,” you will know that you are the child of God. Hold on to that ideal. Meditate until you feel a great joy. When joy strikes your heart, God has answered your broadcast to Him; He is responding to your prayers and positive thinking. This is a distinct and definite method:
First, meditate upon the thought, “I and my Father are one,” trying to feel a great peace, and then a great joy in your heart. When that joy comes, say, “Father, Thou art with me. I command Thy power within me to cauterize my brain cells of wrong habits and past seed tendencies.” The power of God in meditation will do it. Rid yourself of the limiting consciousness that you are a man or a woman; know that you are the child of God. Then mentally affirm and pray to God: “I command my brain cells to change, to destroy the grooves of bad habits that have made a puppet out of me. Lord, burn them up in Thy divine light.” And when you will practice the Self-Realization techniques of meditation, especially Kriya Yoga, you will actually see that light of God baptizing you.
I will tell you a true story of the effectiveness of this technique. In India, a man who had a bad temper came to me. He was a specialist in slapping his bosses when he lost his temper, so he also lost one job after another. He would become so uncontrollably irate that he would throw at whoever bothered him anything that was handy. He asked me for help. I told him, “The next time you get angry, count to one hundred before you act.” He tried it, but came back to me and said, “I get more angry when I do that. While I am counting, I am blind with rage for having to wait so long.” His case looked hopeless.
Then I told him to practice Kriya Yoga, with this further instruction: “After practicing your Kriya, think that the divine Light is going into your brain, soothing it, calming your nerves, calming your emotions, wiping away all anger. And one day your temper tantrums will be gone.” Not long after that, he came to me again, and this time he said, “I am free from the habit of anger. I am so thankful.”
I decided to test him. I arranged for some boys to pick a quarrel with him. I hid myself in the park along the route where he used to pass regularly, so that I could observe. The boys tried again and again to goad him into a fight, but he wouldn’t respond. He kept his calmness.