The practice of Atma Kriya Yoga heightens the awareness of all our actions and qualities especially the lower ones that we hold and suppress inside of us. They surface quite regularly giving us the pleasant or not so pleasant task (whichever way one may choose to see it as) to resolve and transcend them as we endeavor to awaken pure Love inside of us with the regularity of our sadhana or spiritual practices. Paramahamsa Vishwananda has in various discourses and quotes stressed the importance of daily introspection and self-analysis. In one of His quotes, He mentions that before one goes to bed one should reflect on our day, what one has done well and not well and rectify it.
Self-work is not something, especially at the beginning stages, that the mind will want to accept so readily. I have experienced that it is easy for emotions to take control of us when we don’t self-analyze. To start is one thing and to regularly do it is another as was the case with me. It was only after someone pointed out to me to look at how I had become, is when I realized “Oh my good God, I have stopped self-work and it has quietly brought back some old patterns without my notice”. Self-work has to be done on a daily basis consistently to bring about the necessary transformation more effectively. It may be useful to keep a notebook or journal with you to write down any discomfort experienced as they are not limited to a time or a place. This can then be analyzed at a later time when the mind is more balanced.
One may wonder how one can introspect and analyze one’s self. Although the methods may vary from one individual to another, my personal experience is that there is not one specific way but a combination of many ways that work best for me. The ways are not exhaustive and for sure there may be others as well which may also work. The common denominator for all however is to be the Great Observer witnessing thoughts and actions as a third party, analyzing them without any judgement on oneself, and then taking corrective and preventative actions in line with the observations.
One of the ways I use has been described by Swami Vishwarevatikantananda in one of the Thinking Bhakti audio series. He talks of setting a goal and then observing our actions from the yardstick of the goal. There is no judgement of good or bad actions, just actions that take us closer to the particular goal or away from the particular goal. The goal should not be lofty and unmeasurable like “I want to attain God realization” but more specific and measurable like “I will act and speak kindly to everyone irrespective of my circumstances”. Then at the end of the day we examine ourselves to see if our words and actions were in line with the goal or not, without judging ourselves, and then taking steps to either reinforce a particular action that brings us closer or remove one that takes us away from the goal.
Another way has been described and taught by Swami Vishwaparanthapananda as the mirror concept. In simple words, what one sees in another is a mirror reflection of what one has inside of them. So for example if one sees or feels that another person is prideful and arrogant then there also is pride and arrogance inside of you that has enabled you to recognize the same in another person. If one feels another is not being open or being secretive then you are also that way in a situation. So one has to then examine the situation, analyze oneself and go to the root of how that particular feeling arose, and then resolve it within oneself by identifying that quality inside of oneself and taking steps to change it. Swami Vishwananda, in his role as a Satguru, often is said to reflect our qualities back to us, making us aware of what we need to transform inside of ourselves.
Trinity meditation uses the mind body connection to transform ourselves. An example could be jealousy when one sees another has more friends, followers, students or could be anything more, or if another is more popular and famous. Jealousy arises when one wants an instantaneous praise or gratification that the other person is getting without seeing the time and effort that the other person has put in to acquire a particular skill. We learn during Trinity Meditation that jealousy can be transformed by patience and then to infinite patience, meaning, patiently with time as one puts in the effort one will also have the same skill and then to infinite patience that one will acquire the particular skill when the time is right. Infinite patience and other divine qualities will be automatically present when the pure cosmic Love is awakened.
One more way that I have found beneficial is that described by Byron Katie as what she calls The Work. She says that from her experiences our suffering is caused by the thoughts that we believe in and gives a way of identifying and questioning stressful thoughts. It consists of four questions (Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it's true? How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? Who would you be without the thought?) and then a turnabout. In her words “who would you be without your story?”.
An example of this way is that one may identify a stressful thought or a thought that hurts or makes one uncomfortable such as “Madhusudanadas doesn’t listen to me”. The next step is to investigate this thought, as an observer, using the four questions if it is really true. The next step is to find the turnarounds to the original thought so “Madhusudanadas doesn’t listen to me” can become “I don’t listen to myself”, “I don’t listen to Madhusudanadas” and “Madhusudanadas does listen to me”. One then finds three genuine examples in which the turnaround statements is as true or truer. This leads to the final step of embracing the reality of the situation thereby eliminating the stressful thought.
The importance and urgency cannot be better summarized than by Paramahamsa Vishwananda in one of His Facebook messages:
“We should not miss love, so that later we would not find ourselves missing Love. And missing Love means missing everything, and to fail even if the whole outer world is conquered. We should each day get to know Love better and deeper. That means focusing the mind on God, on Love. Search and find him in everyone and in every situation. Here people's thinks that all should be nice by searching and finding God and Love in everyone and in everything. This is not poetry this is living life itself. That means God and Love can come dressed in unexpected way. That means, IT IS NOT ABOUT WHAT OTHER DO OR NOT DO, WHAT OTHER ARE OR ARE NOT. IT IS ABOUT WHAT I DO AND WHO AM I.”
The more disciplined we get in the daily habit of introspection and self-analysis as we continue with our daily practice of a sadhana like Atma Kriya Yoga, the easier it will be to get closer to loving the way God does.