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The Way Out is Within

December 7, 2009 by Sarah Keenan

7-daysThis November, Sarah Keenan arrived at the Ashram as a participant of the Young Adult Program and to practice Karma Yoga.  Like many young people coming to the Ashram, she wanted to know more about the teachings and what they could offer her. She shares with us her journey into the depths of her personal experience during the 7 Days of Yoga Workshop, and the pearls of wisdom that emerged. This is the promise of the teachings when we commit ourselves to the journey. 

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I woke this morning with the embers of a dream still burning, promptly turned on my light, pulled out my journal, and began to jot down the threads of what I could remember. This is one of several practices I’ve learned to use over the past week through participating in a 7-Day Yoga Retreat at Yasodhara Ashram. I came here as part of the Young Adult Program and started my stay with a few weeks of Karma Yoga. During that time, I began to bring a quality of vigilance to self-examination, far beyond anything I’d known before. When the 7-Day course began, I knew it was going to be what I needed to break up and dissolve the stubborn issues still holding firm within me. Like heat that is generated when wind feeds the flames of a fire, this same energy was building inside, stirring up my obstructions. The fire advanced, carrying its light into the darkest corners of my mind, reminding me every day that Light has the power to nudge what 02.lake.light-wavesmight otherwise feel trapped.

I came seeking spiritual sustenance outside myself and quickly realized that the answers were going to have to come from within. The questions that I asked were promptly directed back to me. “That’s a good question. What do you think? You should explore that.” I came seeking perspective and what I found was my own potential. Burying it were impatience, doubt and fear, layered with my need for perfection and my inability to admit weakness to myself and to others.  By being honest with myself, I began to open a door to explore the key relationships in my life and how often I have sought the approval of others. Praise is a response I am conditioned to pursue. I’ve learned how little it actually serves me, and  that awareness was the first step in reclaiming my power I had given to  others.

While much of my learning came from within, sharing the experience with a group of people brought my understanding to another level. This brings me back to the dream I awoke with today. In it, I was visiting a friend who was preparing fish for dinner. I initially pushed this dream aside, believing it didn’t have much for me to work with. As the idea of a fish continued to enter my mind all morning, I began to give the symbol more thought. What do I associate with fish? They live in the water, breathe through their gills and move incredibly fast or hover almost motionlessly. They swim in schools and there is safety in this. It was this metaphor that resonated for me, this same safety and shelter that was provided by the group during the course. The things I conceal, my biggest fears, my most persistent doubts, are sometimes hardest to admit even just to myself. I found the courage to be honest in the group, which allowed me to release my fears, surrender to the process and move forward. There is incredible freedom in sharing what is most intimate.  I discovered the joy of being united in fellowship through this process of sharing.

2goldfishbannerAnother life lesson that I have taken from this course is learning how to understand my emotions.  I can neither ignore them nor throw them out in fear of feeling them. I must allow them, sit with them, go deeper, and understand where they come from, how they affect my mind and my interactions. In one of the practices we explored during the course, I found a way to transform my relationship with emotions. Chanting ‘aum’, focusing equally on each of the three sounds, I learned to change my self-doubt into self-belief. As the ‘ah’ sound resonated deeply in my belly, I visualized the sound dispersing the clouds of my self-doubt. As it moved up to my heart, the vibration of ‘oo’ polished the feeling into self-belief. Finally ‘mm’, rising in my throat onto my lips, allowed me to surrender and practice trust, trust that I could replace one for the other. I discovered that the way out is truly found within!

At the end of the course, we were asked to reflect on the question, ‘What is the purpose of my life?’ In light of all I’ve learned since coming here, I can say that the purpose of my life is to live as true to my Self as I can. This includes continuing to learn who that Self is so that I can persist in honoring it.  It includes learning to sit in the unknown, without needing to plan or control the direction of my path. It is trusting that the path I am on is the right one. Looking back, I can see how every step in my life has followed the last and those same steps have always brought me to where I needed to be.


Stars in the sky taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star

I used to think this intense focus on myself was rather selfish. What I’ve learned is that when I do, it allows me to see the bigger picture and is itself, a selfless practice. By understanding my emotions, I develop compassion for others and their emotions. I like to imagine a camera, zoomed in on a star, then panning out little by little to show the whole universe. If I  know myself, then I can change what is dark in my life and then I will be able to nurture the Light. If I nourish the Light, then I can share it with others, and in so giving of myself, I continue to receive.

It is now my hope to do the Yoga Development Course sometime in the near future. If 7-days brought me this far, where could I go in 3-months?

Yasodhara Ashram will be hosting the Yoga Development Course from January 9 – April 9, 2010. For more information you may call 1-800-661-8711, view our online course catalogue, or email samayananda@yasodhara.org. To join the event on Facebook, click here.


  1. Thanks Sarah, it’s great to hear about your journey!

    Comment by Maya — December 9, 2009 @ 11:29 am

  2. Great Reflection! Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Monica — December 9, 2009 @ 3:56 pm

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