Autobiography of a Yogi: Massive Reader’s Block

Twice, I’ve struggled with reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi (AY). 

I get to a certain point -somewhere around page 200- and it’s boring. So boring, I simply put it down as I can’t derive anything from it. Now, I feel more than a little guilty about this. When I look at other people’s most loved book lists (and after shuddering at their choice of Eat, Pray, Love), AY is often listed – right up there with the Yoga Sutra. 

Now, I’m a tenacious little blighter. I persisted with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time for five books before coming to the conclusion that the series was like Days of Our Lives in fantasy form (incidentally, Jordan died before he completed the series). I’ve patiently read Kate Elliott’s Crown of Swords series (much better than Jordan if you’re into epic fantasy). Hell, I’ve persisted with my PhD thesis for eight years, which includes a second block of fieldwork and a complete re-write. 

I’m not a quitter.

 …but when it comes to Autobiography of a Yogi, I hit a wall. Page 200. Smack! And I can’t do it anymore.

 As soon as I put the book down, I start to wonder: am I missing out on something? Others seem to adore this book. People claim that it changes their lives. Yogananda outlines his Kriya Yoga system in there. There must be some reason others find it so enlightening. Perhaps I should just head-butt my way past reader’s block? 

Another part of me says: chill out. You’re not really finding anything life changing in the text, so read something else.  

 Is it because I know Yogananda’s story from other biographical accounts? Or is it that his words simply don’t speak to me in the same way that the Yoga Sutras, or Desikachar or Mark Whitwell’s words do?

 Whatever it is, I’m feeling a bit left out. Why don’t I get the special message, the vibes, the wisdom from his book? What’s wrong with me that I find it ho-hum, and tune out at page 200? Where’s my bite of the cherry?

 Or is it that it’s simply not my cherry to bite?


The Greatest Adventure of All

All worldly pursuits have but one unavoidable and inevitable end, which is sorrow; acquisitions end in dispersion; buildings in destruction; meetings, in separation; births, in death. Knowing this, one should from the very first renounce acquisition and heaping up, and building and meeting … Life is short, and the time of death uncertain, so apply yourselves to meditation…





All of my life, I had been afraid of death.

So afraid, that I had often awoken deep in the night, with the dreadful thought that one day, I would simply not be. I would be gone, unaware, unconscious. I would simply cease.

I would panic. I would have to sit up in bed and consciously calm myself; my heart would be pounding, my breath clutching, my chest tight. I would reach out to my partner and cling to them, reminding myself that I was alive, alive, alive and that this was just the hang over of a bad dream.

The worst of these panic attacks about death came when I was in Darjeeling, India, alone in a wonderful guesthouse. I’d just returned from a climb halfway up Mt Everest, where one is confronted with the fragility of life – the deaths of porters through altitude sickness, and the frozen and slowly disintigrating bodies of climbers once you begin to ascend from Base Camp. 

In Darjeeling, there was no one to cling to. I had simply had to sit up, breathe and work through it.

That was four years ago. My fear of death did not go away, but the panic attacks in the middle of the night became rare as my battle with depression (after the break up of my marriage) became the focus of my life.

This year, my healing year, I have had no return of the nocturnal panics about death; now, just recently, a resolution and release of that fear altogether. 

This is the story of that resolution.

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