Journey to Health: A Week Of Dialogue With My Heart

If I had to describe my time at Yasodhara ashram in 5 words or phrases, I’d choose:

  • dialogue
  • connecting
  • rooting
  • finding my power
  • opened up my heart and letting it sing

But my 7 day trip definitely didn’t start out this way.

I spent Thursday evening in Cranbrook at a lovely Bed & Breakfast, then did my fair share of sightseeing, laying on the beach, and driving around before I headed to the ashram late Friday afternoon.

I was feeling confident, excited, and ready to rock my retreat… until I pulled into the parking lot.

I was met with a flood of emotions and fears

  • guilt – will Kevin be okay at home without me?
  • fear of rejection – will I get along with everyone?
  • scared – what if I connect with myself and I don’t like what I see?
  • doubtful – what if I hate it here?

I managed to pace back and forth between my car and the main office for over 30 minutes, misplace my credit card, drop the entire contents of my change purse across the front atrium, and have a complete melt down on the side of the road.

I was scared, alone, and totally confused. I asked myself…

“Why am I feeling all of these things?”

I didn’t get a response. In fact, I got nothing. I was a ball of unstable emotions. It was so unnerving!

Once I was settled in my room, I grabbed my camera and went on a little adventure to calm myself.

We started the retreat with a 1 hour meet and greet session where we were asked to explore what it meant to us to be a woman. The first thoughts that came to my mind were guilt, challenge, balancing, over exertion, light, and ability to create.

Honestly, I’d never thought about this before… and that surprised me.

We finished the day off with a great dinner of greens, salmon cakes [very similar to these ones] and an evening satsang.

Satsang is a time that the community sets aside each evening where they chant in the Temple, pray for those who have asked to be on their prayer list, and reflect on the day. Besides karma yoga, this was my very favorite activity!

Satsangs were held here, in the Temple of Divine Light.

Friday and Saturday came and went and I just wasn’t feeling connected. I didn’t know if it was my mind, my heart, or my soul, but something was resisting everything about the experience.

I remember thinking…

“If this is part of the process than so be it, but I feel like it’s larger than that for me. Maybe doing this now is a bad time? Maybe I’m more fragile than I thought? I’m unsure of what my next steps should be.”

But nothing came to me.

In an effort to try to connect somehow, I decided to go back to my meditative roots in hopes of weeding out the white noise that filled my head.

I spent Sunday morning in the Beach Prayer room, a couple minutes walk from our dorm. It quickly became my favorite place out of all of the buildings on site.

I couldn’t get into my meditation, I was easily distracted and highly irritated. I felt like my entire body was vibrating and I just couldn’t get it to slow down.

After an hour in the room, I headed for my first Karma Yoga session.

Karma Yoga – selfless service in action – is the foundation of life at Yasodhara. It is said that practicing Karma Yoga brings light and joy to everyday tasks. And that we can easily work from devotion while uncovering a deep sense of freedom and contentment.

I wasn’t sure how weeding a garden was going to enlighten me, but I was pretty desperate at this point.

I found a patch of weeds and got to work. 5 minutes in I was thinking…

“I’m going to be the best weeder. All the people at the ashram are going to announce that I was the best, that I found the most weeds and removed them with the most efficiency.”

“Wait, what’s that about?”

This lead me to ask myself, “why do I feel the need to compete with others?”

The answer quickly came… “because I feel the need to prove myself to others so that they’ll like me”

Then I asked “why?” [logical question, right?]

And was met with “because I fear rejection

That marked the end of karma yoga for the day and I sat with my findings for 24 hours before we were assigned to our next task… weeding for a second day.

I stopped myself from being competitive this go around and instead, tried to figure out why I had a fear of rejection.

I got to work quickly and with each weed I pulled I asked my heart a question.

“Was it the time my Mom went to my sister’s gymnastic class over my dance recitle?” and I stared at the weed. Nope, that didn’t resonate.

“Was it the time that my best friend didn’t invite me for a sleepover but all of our other friends went?” Nope.

Then there was this big weed. This big one that I could tell had long roots and would be a pain to get out. So I grabbed my butter knife, got down on the ground and went to work. I poked, I prodded, I manuvered, then the weed came out in my hand, root and all. At that very moment my heart said…

“It wasn’t another person who did this to you, or who made you this way. The day you started to reject yourself and fill your heart with hatred, loathing and resistance for the woman you were becoming was the day it all began

I stared at that weed in my hand for a long while. It’s roots were thick and hearty. I knew I had hit the spot.

The karma yoga experience was the turning point for me during my time at the ashram. Sadly it was on my last day that all the pieces started to come together. I sat in silence for 4 hours and wrote pages upon pages in my journal about what pulling out that big weed had meant to me.

Here are some excerpts from my journal, a constant reminder of just how important accepting and loving ourselves is to our overall happiness.

  • In order for me to move forward , I need to accept myself, forgive myself for years of hatred and resistance, and feel one with myself and what I’ve been put on this earth to do.
  • I have to acknowledge the positive qualities within myself.
  • I will search for happiness from within, allowing my strengths to shine.
  • I will drop my constant worry of rejection from others because in reality, that fear has been created by me. I will accept myself and the entire universe will too.

At the end of our retreat we were asked to write down what being a women means to us. I chose strength, power, connected, and nurture.

I left a completely different woman.

And with that, I leave you with some of the dialogue that I had with my heart. I encourage you to open up that space, ask the tough questions, and see what you get back. It’s truly a life changing experience!

We decide the person we want to be. By exposing ourselves to the divine [whatever that may be for you] we can choose what we accept into our consciousness and ensure that it’s positive. What kind of person do I want to be?

To give yourself and the best you have, you give with your heart.

Speak from your heat, act from your heart and sing from your heart to grow love for yourself and those around you.

I have all the answers inside of me. I just have to ask the questions and sit with them. Be silent, and love.

I must love, live, and sing with my soul. Because I am the apitamy of beauty.

Have a fantastic Thursday :)

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  1. Such a beautiful post!!!!

    The images, the words, the beauty that is in this post is remarkable.

    It’s SO COMMON to have unsettled, anxious, sad, irritable, etc type of emotions during yoga & retreats specifically..it’s all that stuff just coming up to the surface.

    Good for you for working thru it and thrilled you had this life changing experience.

    All the photography is stunning.

    Love the ganeshes and yoga vibes!

    And also the banana/fruit plate shot..exquisite!

  2. Wow. Leanne, this is beautiful. Thank you for your words and telling us your story. It is really something I feel I needed now. You are so beautiful-inside and out. And so are your pictures and words. Thank you.

  3. What a insightful post. I suddenly feel the urge to go on a retreat. Thank you!

  4. What a wonderful post — and I so needed to read this. I have been feeling so competitive and crazy lately! I just don’t know where these feelings are coming from. This really struck a chord in me:

    “It wasn’t another person who did this to you, or who made you this way. The day you started to reject yourself and fill your heart with hatred, loathing and resistance for the woman you were becoming was the day it all began“

    I know it is all coming from within me — I need to get back to loving myself — why is that so hard for me to do?

    Thank you, you’ve given me a lot to think about today!

  5. Wow I love everything about this post. You seem to have found out so much about yourself which is a magical feeling. I hope you carry this experience into your future to help you out when times get hard <3

  6. You’re so very inspiring! I’m glad you found out what you were looking for in the end. It sounds like a wonderful thing for everyone to do. And thanks for sharing!

  7. Oh Leanne! Beautiful. I just want to hug you right now. Thank you so much for sharing…the pictures, your thoughts, feelings, doubts, fears, internal dialogue, journal entries….everything! You truly went on a journey and worked through a lot. I second what Mercedes said, this is one of favorite blog posts of all-time. Thank you. I think I’m going to do some “weeding” today ;-) I appreciate you and the inspiration you provide <3

  8. such powerful happenings! and of course it happens on the last day – I think retreats are often timed in just the right way… with enough to find your way, to struggle a bit, keep going and Get It! and then process after. good for you for working through, for asking all the questions!

    daily satsangs are wonderful – sometimes just a chance to breathe, regroup and close your day, other times hugely powerful!

    thank you for sharing your journey!

  9. Thank you for opening up your personal journey to us. I loved your blog before, but now I feel so much closer to who you are, instead of just a writer and good cook. It sounds like such an uplifting week that you’ve been through. Thank you.

  10. What a beautifully honest post… this has struck a chord in me. I have wanted to visit a place like this for some time, because I know I need work opening my heart and accepting things as they are (and I definitely don’t think I will find it in the busy office/city/home-life). This is inspirational, thank you <3

  11. What an inspiring, honest, and beautiful post! The pictures are so beautiful – makes me want to go on a yoga retreat.
    I think this is one of my fave posts you’ve written! :) Thanks for sharing your experience!

  12. So I am sitting here with tears welling up in my eyes. I feel like I am looking in the mirror while reading this. Everything you said is so similar to my very own internal voices. I just never excavated further and realized that it is no one’s fault that I have a fear of rejection but my own. When I read how you connected the dots between your need to compete with others to your own self- hatred for the woman you were becoming, I cannot tell you the profound impact it had on me (I think you do understand, since you had your own moment with this–ha!) Especially that vivid image of plucking that weed out. You have given me a lot to think about and I just wanted to thank you for your honesty and transparency. It has allowed this soul to open up an old wound and begin another layer of cleaning. Thank you, thank you, thank you! xoxo, Cara

    • Your comment brought tears (and a big smile) to my face, too :) I’m glad my story could “uproot” some thoughts for you. I totally know what kind of impact it has! Sit with it… it’s an amazing feeling :)

      • It’s so funny because when I went to grad school, this was one of the philosophies I studied: “Sitting in your weeds.” We were given weekly assignments to sit for an hour in our “weeds” and explore what we found there. So the visual you gave had a double meaning that touches my soul so deeply. Again, beautiful post. I’m still thinking about it and will continue to do so for awhile. I love it when I find people who care about being intune with their inner life. You are so refreshing, truly!

  13. I just found your blog in a roundabout way. I visited Yasodhara Ashram a couple of years ago and your post really resonated with me. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place, but also a challenging one – it’s so rare we get the opportunity to spend that much time reflecting.

    (Also, the food is amazing!)

    • The food WAS amazing wasn’t it? I’m setting up a yasodhara memories series here in the coming weeks where I’ll be (trying) to recreate some of their recipes from memory! I’m so glad my story resonated with you :)

      • It truly did. I hadn’t thought about Satsang in a while… I remember being really uncertain about it the first night but by the end enjoying how beautiful it was. All the voices mingling together…

        Spiritual growth aside, I think often of the pumpkin-seed butter I ate there, and keep meaning to try to recreate it. I suspect I need to taste it near Kootenay Lake to do it justice, though.

        • I’ve been told that they hold a satsang every Sunday in Calgary. Thinking of going in the coming weeks. Are you nearby?
          We didn’t have pumpkin seed butter, but it sounds delicious. Was it just pumpkin seeds? Or something more?

          • I am nearby, but I’ve never managed to make the Sunday satsang. Something always comes up!

            I think the pumpkin-seed butter was made just like peanut butter – you know, seeds toasted and pureed with some oil. I should really make some. It was delicious.

  14. Leanne, I really appreciated this post and how candid you were with your experience. I think I need one of those retreats too! Though reading this simply opened me up to a different, more positive mindset. Thanks so much for sharing!

  15. This post almost has made me cry. It truly resonated with me.

    Thank you! Thank you for writing that up and for giving me something to think about and, in succession, to act and change what needs to be changed.

  16. I only recently found your blog, and I have to admit that it resonates with me. I admire how open and honest you are with your thoughts and feelings – I wish I could be the same. Reading this particular post, I was reminded of my many attempts to meditate, to find out who I truly am, to center myself – all resulted in panic/anxiety attacks within the first few minutes, leaving me gasping for breath. I realized (as you did!) that I was afraid of getting to know who I was because I was afraid that I would hate what I found, and as I fear rejection, my own rejection of myself would be terrible… I’m still afraid to meditate… Your post/blog-in-general enlightening and has encouraged me to keep trying. Thank you again for being so candid, keep doing what you’re doing! (Ps – your recipes rock! As a new clean-eating vegetarian, I am looking forward to trying them out!)

    • I could never understand the panic I’d get with meditation either. Something that helped me ease into it was just sitting quietly for 20 minutes. I’d allow my mind to wander, but I’d sit alone and just… listen to myself. I’m so happy my story resonates with you. Can’t wait to hear how you like the recipes!

  17. I love this Leanne. Totally transports me back to the ashram. I looove the beach room, so beautiful. I think everyone should visit an ashram in their lifetime. I appreciate your honesty in your post. I went through my “bouts” during my last stint there when I was 19.

    • I still dream of that beach room. I can’t wait to return this year, such a beautiful place. Maybe I’ll see you there!

  18. I won’t be going this summer, but I need to get back there again, it’s been too long. My mom was just out visiting my aunt for 2 weeks and we made a vow to go once a year. If you happen to run into Swami Radhakrishnananda or Alicia Pace – that’s my cousin and aunt. My cousin and her hubby live up the mountain in the ashram community housing. I really look forward to hearing about your next adventure there! :)

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