Close this search box.

The Way Out Is The Way In

Sister Doreen’s Reflections

My attention was attracted and then arrested by the title “The Way Out is the Way In” on a small booklet of poetry written by disabled persons and edited by Stuart McKay. In the introduction he wrote: “I write these words, and all my words previous, hoping to gain an awareness of a way of life, not one for those who suppose they have it all figured out, but for the braver souls who ache to throw away all their prejudices and preconceptions, who are ready for some fertile, fresh ground where they can stop, sense and absorb it until its essence fills them.”

Yes, I said, this is fodder for my own reflection, it resonates with my deepest desire! I want to come alive, truly alive and in this short statement, the way out is the way in, I am moved to think that therein  lies a deep mystery of truth. Wisdom spirituality seems to point beyond faith toward a path of solitary searching to find understanding – a searching that is simultaneously frustrating, troubling and surprising.

In a real sense it is a call to wake up, to understand, and to love: a call to see with the eyes of our eyes, to hear with the ears of our ears, to listen with the heart of our heart.

The way out is in, where we can wait and dwell and ponder – a way to help us transcend our fears and our angers, our stresses and bewilderment, so that we can move out in a way that develops love and compassion. I know that the way out of any difficulty is to look deeply within, gain insights, see things in a bigger picture and better perspective, to go through the experience, and so move into more fullness of life and action. It is a way to create more happiness and joy in our lives.

The way out of any circumstance or situation is in, to learn to recognize what is deeply troubling us, to embrace it and to transform it. This is the hard work of a blessed silent struggle of surrender and acceptance!  It is only when we can smile, for example, at the mud when we have mud, that we can discover how to make good use of the mud, and then discover that we can grow flowers!

Thick Nhat Hanh said the following in his book called “Silence”: “Our true home is what the Buddha called the island of self, the peaceful place inside of us. Oftentimes we don’t notice it’s there; we don’t even really know where we are, because our outer or inner environment is filled with noise. We need some quietness to find that island of self.”

It seems to me that ‘the way out is in’ is a call to a meditation practice, an awareness practice, that will help heal and transform, help us to be whole, to look deeply into ourselves and around us in order to realize what is really there. We need to look deeply, to use mindfulness or curiosity to light up the recesses of our mind, to look into the heart of things in order to see it’s true nature. It is the way to gain new insights, see things in a bigger picture and better perspective and so move into fullness of life and action.

Alas, we are often so busy we hardly have time to look at the people we love, even in our own household or community, let alone to look at ourselves. It seems that our life becomes organized in such a way that even when we have some leisure time, we don’t know how to use it to get back in touch with ourselves.  The way out is in, going back to ourselves in order to see what is going on. This is very important. It is the place where we can discover our capacity to smile, to be a peace – so necessary if we desire to be persons that make peace around us and in our world. It is the place where we can discover or develop a deeper understanding, a place where we can practice looking at all living beings with the eyes of compassion and love.

There is a deep discontent in our world today – we can send emails and faxes anywhere in the world, we have pagers and cell phones, and yet so often we are so busy on them that we do not speak to each other! What a vacuum there is inside of us, and we find ourselves filling it with eating, reading, drinking, watching TV and Videos and even overworking. In todays world of virtual communication we absorb so much violence and insecurity every day.

Maybe, just maybe, the practice of knowing and believing and doing “the way out is the way in” could be the cure for our illness!

The way out is the way in can help us cultivate compassion, loving-kindness, responsibility and the integrity of every living person, deep listening and loving speech. Thomas Merton said it this way: “In the language of the monastic fathers, all prayers, readings, meditation, and all the activities of the monastic life are aimed at purity of heart, an unconditioned and totally humble surrender to God, a total acceptance of ourselves, all exaggerated estimates of our own capacities, in order to obey God’s will as it comes to us.”  The way out is the way in – mindfulness or curiosity and meditation – ensures that it is not evasion but a deep encounter with reality. It is a means of liberation and healing. What we do not face or see, will fester and divide.

The way out is through the way in. If you go through the process, you will find your way out. This sentiment appears in the poem “Servant of Servants” by Robert Frost. In the poem he is talking about the common tactic of avoiding what we should be facing. He’s talking about our failure to confront and deal with what should be confronted and dealt with. We avoid what needs confronting because we believe it might be unpleasant, however in his poem he assures us that the best way to solve the dilemma is through it not around it. He goes on to say that we avoid what needs confronting because we believe it might be messy. However many things in life are messy before they are cleaned up. The remedy to a messy situation is through it, not around it. And he points out that we avoid what needs confronting because we believe it might be painful. What is painful will never heal itself by avoiding it, it will only fester, or get worse.

He recommended going through for four reasons:

  • By going through, you’ll find our exactly where you stand
  • By going through,  you may learn something important
  • By going through, you may gain valuable experience you can use later
  • By going through, you will become stronger and better equipped for future battles.

In the way out is the way in, Love is reborn, and reborn and reborn. Perhaps you might like to look up and read Robert Frosts poem “Servants of Servants”. It is a long poem, but I believe that it is true that however unpleasant, messy, or painful it might be, that the way out is the way in.