“YOU ARE HERE” is written on the poster in bold letters, next to a bright red X. A line of arrows leads from the X, showing the exit route that leads out of the building in case of a fire. Every hotel room we’ve ever stayed in has such a sign posted inside the door, and although I’ve never actually studied one carefully, it is comforting to know that it’s there.

In our spiritual development, we may start to look for a different kind of exit strategy. Paramhansa Yogananda spoke of the “anguishing monotony” that comes when we realize that we’ve been trapped for a long time in a world where true happiness cannot be found. Then we begin to look for ways to escape suffering permanently, and for this we need more than one of those posters. The true way out is found through the guidance of God or one of His enlightened children—one who is free from delusion.

I’m reading an inspiring book now: A Goddess Among Us, by Swami Mangalananda, about the life of a great woman saint of the twentieth century, Anandamayi Ma. The book contains a story of one of Ma’s young disciples, and how the saint helped her to escape the confines of this world.

Sri Anandamayi Ma Yogananda teachings

Anandamayi Ma. (With thanks to anandamayi.org.)

The girl was once standing in line to receive Ma’s blessings at the conclusion of a satsang. Ma’s health was quite poor at that time, and her attendants had formed a tight guard around her to prevent people from touching her feet. As the disciple stood in line, she felt an intense longing to touch Ma’s feet, and began mentally praying to receive this blessing.

As her turn came and she stood before Ma, she suddenly found that “time had stopped,” and she was in a completely private world with Ma. There was no sound, and she saw only the saint, who extended her feet towards her. Kneeling down, the girl lovingly held Ma’s feet to her head in reverence. Then, as she stood up, the noise and the attendants returned. The girl moved on, realizing that no one else had witnessed that magical moment when she’d “stolen” that sacred touch.

An even more dramatic story in this regard comes from the life of the great sixteenth-century Spanish mystic and saint, John of the Cross. Along with his elder mentor, St. Teresa of Avila, he sought to reform the Carmelite Order to its original purity, which had been lost over time.

His reform efforts were met by fierce opposition from powerful Church leaders, and in 1577 John was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured. Kept in a tiny cell, which was no more than a crawl space between two walls, he was subjected to frequent public lashings and a starvation diet. This went on for seven months.

Finally, one evening in the dead of night, a great light appeared in his cell, and Christ stood before him. The prison walls seemed to melt away, and he quietly made his escape. Though weakened and in pain from his harsh treatment, he found his way to one of St. Teresa’s convents, where he was protected and nursed back to health. Later he received protection from the Pope, who gave him permission to found and lead a new monastic order.

Friends, if you feel the problems of life are closing in around you, and all your exit strategies lead to dead ends, remember to seek help from God and the great saints. Through them alone can we find the soul freedom we are seeking.

Swami Kriyananda composed a wonderful children’s song whose words are:

Nothing on earth can hold me;
Rise, O my soul, in freedom.
Nothing on earth can hold me;
Rise, O my soul, in freedom.

Rise, O my soul, in freedom:
Nothing to fear anymore.
Rise, O my soul, in freedom:
Nothing to fear anymore. 

May your search for inner freedom be met with fulfillment.

Nayaswami Devi

P.S. There is much happening in honor of the Mahasamadhi of Paramhansa Yogananda, March 7th. Visit our events page to see the various programs you can join for free virtually throughout the day.

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24 Comments

  1. Beautiful insight to the divine grace to which we are entitled so lovingly.
    Thanks for the letter

  2. Thank you, this reading was really needed for me right now. Gave me inspiration and confidence to renew my meditation practice

  3. Dear Nayaswami Devi, every time I open your letters with joyful anticipation of new inspiration, a sincere life story.
    Thanks, Aditi

  4. Thank you for the beautiful, inspiring story. It Blessed Me indeed

  5. What an uplifting divine assurance !
    Thank you for such a lovely message,Devi ji.
    Jai Gurudev 🌺🌹🙏

  6. Thank you Devi for this timely inspiration to persist despite outward circumstances. ‘Free at last from dire oppression.’
    Divine Love flowing through us always,
    Kamala

  7. Aloha Devi Ji – I was looking for something else when you popped up. Well timed message or was it meant for only me? Mahalo!

  8. Thank you for the beautiful stories and inspiration, Devi 💕

  9. Swamini ji,
    This reminded me of safety drill conducted on every month end at big construction site, where everyone is go mock drill to run out from top floor following “X” marked arrow to safe destined place, and fire extinguishing takes place for training. But as you rightly marked out we have never found out safe escape route from our troubled life, we need Guru’s blessing and to set on right path without any further hick ups. Hope the day will come soon.

  10. Thank you Deviji for this uplifting blog. I too feel that I have nothing to fear having God and Gurus to protect me

  11. What a beautiful children’s song! I am an adult singing niw❤️🙏

  12. Thank you, Devi. Wonderful to have portals appear to heavenly vistas amid the busy morning.

  13. Came across this blog when I needed it the most…thank u so much🙏🙏

  14. Just a note to thank Nayaswamijis Jyotish and Devi for such a beautiful inspirational message. I have come in contact with this work recently and am following these teachings and notes of spiritual wisdom. Will never be able to thank you enough.
    Om Tat Sat!
    Luis

  15. Talking about synchronicity. I just finished watching a mini-series about Teresa of Avila in Spanish with English Subtitles. The fight between the Carmelites two orders (the shoed) and (Sandled) caused a lot of friction. Teresa of Avila wanted a community with less distraction for praying (ie., meditation). She describes in her book “Interior Castle” the same experience a Yogi experiences as She/He deepens their meditation practice. Thanks to Yogananda teachings – I have been able to return to the Catholic Church and appreciate the liturgy. I also go to the Salvation Army church for the Karma Yoga opportunities. I have had some consolation while waiting for Expanding Light Ashram to re-open :)

  16. Both your stories brought tears to my eyes, Devi. Especially the story of John of the Cross. My God, the pain and suffering saints of all ages have endured to seek the true path. Undaunted, they persevered, and with time, stood before the Light that frees us all! We, fortunately, live now in an age where seeking the true path doesn’t result in persecution and punishment. May our good karma become a knowing gratitude, and with all of the tools Master has gifted us, let us build our ship to escape the agonizing monotony of maya’s entrapment.

    God bless us all!

    Jay

  17. Thank you dear Devi. Your words are so inspiring and that is beautiful wish to have – that we all find fulfillment in the search for inner freedom. Thank you!

  18. Dear Nayaswami Devi Ji,

    Thank you for this inspiring blog. Very helpful guidance.
    Beautiful ending with Swamiji’s song :-)

    Joy ,
    Prem

  19. Dear Nayaswami Devi Ji,

    Thank you for this inspiring blog. Very helpful guidance . A beautiful ending with Swamiji’s song :-)

    Joy
    Prem

  20. Think it is time to seek exit strategy of darsh an of a divine soul.

  21. Thank you dear Devi! It DOES feel like life is closing in all around me, even with the Gurus and saints. But in the darkness I cling to my sadhana and I know it can’t last forever.

  22. That was sweet. I heard a similar story when a devotee had been sent to Cuba right after the revolution to give Kriya to some lessons students. The guards wanted to search the car, and the devotee sat still meditating. They didn’t seem to notice he was there. There had been some concern about the list of names of those about to take Kriya that he was carrying. But they didn’t notice that either. They let the car pass without incident. It’s as if c he’d become invisible. Miracles happen.

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