Finding Freedom through Yoga

Yoga silhouette at sunset

By Shankara Newton

One day when I was a teenager, I was rummaging around in the attic in my sister's books and stumbled upon a copy of The Gospel of Shri Ramakrishna, which would utterly alter the course of my life and help me realize the purpose for which I was born. It was an account of a great Yoga Master who became absolutely consumed by a desire to know the Self and merge into the Divine. His example and teachings became the flame that ignited my own overwhelming longing to know the Truth and free myself from tremendous suffering that, up until then, I had been incapable of understanding and which first set me on the journey into the yogic path. Six months later I moved into the Kripalu Center Ashram in Berkshire, Massachusetts.

My time at Kripalu provided the foundation for my own self understanding and healing that continues to expand and evolve each and every day. We were provided a setting with the most ideal conditions to enable us to focus exclusively on utilizing yogic philosophy and method for total integration and harmonizing of the body, mind, and spirit. Surrounded by a group of like-minded people, we provided for each other a structure of the most extraordinary inspiration and highly precious support which helped us to work through at times extremely difficult internal obstacles and blockages. For the majority of us, it helped lay the foundations for living a more conscious and spiritually centered life that continues years later.

As it's said, our biggest challenge leads to our greatest triumph. For me, my biggest challenge for many years was the relentless and often overwhelmingly vicious onslaught of self-hatred, self-loathing, and inner doubt that plagued me internally since early childhood. As so many of us have experienced in the spiritual world, I could not reconcile the very high levels of my emotional and energetic sensitivity with the indifference and frequent cruelty of the people and world around me. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I unconsciously became buried deeper and deeper within myself and lived with an ever-increasing sense of anxiety and loneliness that, when my father passed when I was 11, would eventually develop into a gnawing sense of hopelessness, anguish, and despair.

For my Master's thesis, the assignment was to write abut my understanding as to what makes people change. I explained that it’s not pain and suffering alone that become the catalyst for people to take action. We can all easily identify a people who are experiencing much suffering but are not willing to take the necessary steps to alleviate it. Rather, the spark that leads people to pursue true and lasting growth and healing arises when they fundamentally and completely experience the futility and un-workability of the approach they have taken up until that point, which has lead to little to no success. It's only when we get tired and weary of the mind's desperate attempts and futile strategies for fixing our problems that we become open and receptive to try something new. And just as my guru says, it is only when we have tried and failed that we realize the limits of our mind and ego. Only then do we turn to God, to the Ultimate Truth and Reality, to the only truly reliable source of lasting peace and joy.

I had arrived at the place of complete disillusionment with myself and the world when I completed high school. There was no longer any conscious choice as to whether to go forward and try and free myself from my mind — the decision was forever made for me. And to what I now attribute to good karma I brought forth from previous lives (plus Divine Grace), I was lead to the yogic path. Through yogic philosophy and practice , I found and continue to find the answers and solutions to each and every one my struggles and difficulties. It helped me years ago to resolve the most plaguing question, “Who Am I?” I continue to turn to it for comfort, solace, and peace each and every day.

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Writing to inspire mindfulness, contemplation and wholesome living, by Copper Beech master teachers, students and contributors.

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