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Nervousness: The World’s Disease

by Paramhansa Yogananda
Spring 2005 3 Comments

fb-py-ay-150Nervousness, which is the opposite of calmness, appears to be a simple ailment. But in reality it has far-reaching consequences. Today, nervousness seems to be the world’s disease.

Nervousness interferes with all the normal functioning of the human body and mind; it upsets the physical, mental, and spiritual machinery. If you are nervous, it is difficult to meditate deeply, work efficiently, or heal a disease.

The body may be compared to a factory, in which the brain is the main dynamo. The brain sends energy to the organs of the body through a system of special conductors called nerves. The nerves vitalize the bodily organs, and send and receive messages from the outer world.

Violent and long-continued excitement
The main causes of nervousness are 1) long-continued over-activity, 2) excessive stimulation of the senses from physical over-indulgence, 3) and mental over-stimulation from chronic fear, anger, sorrow, hatred, jealousy, discontent or similar harmful emotions.

Any violent or prolonged excitement disturbs the flow of life force through the nervous system. If you put a two-thousand-volt current through a fifty-watt lamp, it will burn out the lamp. In the same way, excessive stimulation burns the nerves, cutting off the supply of energy and upsetting the functioning of the nervous system.

The most damaging emotions are anger and fear. (Worry is usually a fear that something undesirable will happen.) As soon as you are angry or afraid, you burn the nerves.

Anger burns the nerves in the brain and causes poisons to be secreted throughout the body. Fear burns the nerves that supply the heart and can cause heart trouble. Feelings of timidity destroy the nerve endings.

Nervousness is highly contagious
Nervousness can also be caused by a restless mind, which sends excess energy vibrating along the nerves. Too little sleep is harmful to the nerves, but too much sleep drugs the nerves.

Lack of the necessities for normal and happy living such as exercise, fresh air, sunshine, proper food, agreeable work, and a purpose in life aggravate, if they do not actually cause, nervousness.

Nervousness is highly contagious and can be caused by associating with nervous, faultfinding, or otherwise disagreeable people.

“What comes of itself, let it come”
I have devised a recharging technique by which you can revive nerve tissue by sending energy into damaged nerves. But this technique is of little avail if you do not remedy the causes of nervousness. Knowing how to prevent nerve cells from being destroyed is the first step.

First, analyze yourself and determine the cause of your nervousness. If fear is at work, a calm analysis of the cause will usually remove the fear. What’s the use of fearing? Fear not only causes nervousness, but can also bring about the very things you wish to avoid.

Anger results from frustrated desires. Desire and anger are the two greatest barriers to wisdom. They destroy a person’s peace of mind, and obstruct the flow of his understanding.

To overcome anger, learn to remain inwardly calm and non-attached. 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 the good. Calmness alone will give you a sense of correct proportion and inspire you to behave with unfailing good sense.

Soothe and relax the nervous system
Water cools the nerve endings and balances all the vital centers. Taking a cold shower or splashing your face with cold water is very helpful for nervousness.

For the overworked mental worker, merely going out of doors and resting the eyes upon some far distant patch of green will often soothe and relax the nervous system. Eating more fruit, not over-eating, and partial fasting—going without breakfast or lunch—are also good.

Associating with strong, serene, kind, spiritual people is of great benefit to the nervous person. Even a few moments in the company of a saint can work wonders in producing calmness and quiet.

Soul nervousness requires meditation
There is another form of nervousness, “soul nervousness,” which can be destroyed only by meditation. In soul nervousness, the soul is so identified with the body that it has forgotten its real nature. It thinks it is nothing but a bundle of sensations.

The cure for soul nervousness lies in transferring your attention from this little cage of the body to the perception of the Infinite. As a child of the Infinite, you must learn to reflect the image of God.

Do your best today and forget tomorrow
It’s good to have a vision of the future, but don’t harass the soul with petty worries. God is in charge of planets, stars—everything that you see, yet He is never disturbed. Do your best today and forget tomorrow. God will take care of everything.

To increase your capacity for work always think that you are doing God’s work. Each day ask yourself: “What can I do for God today?” God is always busy, creating universes upon universes, yet He is never tired. If we want to be like Him, we must have His tremendous capacity for activity.

If you learn to control the life force through the practice of meditation and spiritual exercises, your mind and vital powers will be under your control. Calm nerves, controlled bodily energy, and a well-regulated moral life usually accompany mental calmness.

From East-West Magazine, 1927; Praecepta Lessons, 1934, 1935, 1938; and Conversations with Yogananda.

Click to order Conversations with Yogananda by Swami Kriyananda

Related reading: How to Be Happy All the Time – The Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda, Volume 1 by Paramhansa Yogananda

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  • Nirupma says:

    What an enlightening article, I swear angry thoughts have given me diabetes plus watching my horoscope daily! I always find something soothing on these pages! Thank you master for showing us the way! Thank you for posting this article. These kind of analysis always appeal to those who will not accept tradition without understanding it first.

  • Sue Griffiths says:

    Thank you for printing Master’s soothing words and practical steps to help us to stay calm whatever happens.

  • Barb Walley says:

    Dear Ananda Family: I loved reading this article from Master. It was sooo good to read that after a stressful day at work. I know that even though I do my best to stay aligned with my spiritual truth, sometimes my humanity or the humanity of others hooks me and I am not as centered nor affirmative as I would like to be. Being more aware of how being nervous is so hard on one’s nerves makes so much sense. I am sure that I have fried mine over the years. I am delighted to hear that they can be restored. But before I ask for help restoring them… I want to do what Master suggested.

    Thank you so much, Namaste, Barb Walley

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