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In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself within a dark woods where the straight way was lost. –D. Alighieri

In her book Broken Open, Elizabeth Lesser recounts her experience of emerging from the woods with nothing left to lose. In that dark place, she discovered qualities she forgot she had, retrieved her soul, and reinvented herself. It was as if she was born a second time.


After the end of a 16 year marriage, I find myself on this path, too. Uncharted waters engulf me, and most days I have no idea what I’m doing, other than putting one foot in front of the other, determined that fear will no longer be the invisible hand at my back, pushing me forward. The discomfort of change enables an undercurrent of peace and acceptance of my life’s radical new direction. Humility— death to self—is my constant tutor.

Melissa Smith—writer, traveler, momma, Acro-Thai-Therapeutics-YogaLifeStudent-OccasionalTeacher & 500 RYT—leads advanced teacher trainings for, specializing in Yaapana Therapeutic Partner Practice.

In the chapter “Meditation for Practicing Dying,” Lesser declares that every day is a lesson in the death of our selves: our own ego, resistance to Truth, our selfish desires:

“Death heightens our appreciation of every moment we are alive and calls out to us, ‘Soon you will die; what will you do with your life? What have you not done yet that you want to do?’ Death is the best kick in the ass I know. It is profoundly confrontational and profitable to contemplate.” This meditation has been a surprising comfort. When I find myself hit head-on by another self-effacing situation, I return to it and begin to regain my strength and feel more fully alive by facing the death of my marriage and of myself.

“Soon you will die; what will you do with your life? What have you not done yet that you want to do? Death is the best kick in the ass I know. It is profoundly confrontational and profitable to contemplate.”


E.E. Cummings said it best: “To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.” To live by this motto is to be brave, to risk being disliked for who you truly are, but the reward for this bravery is that you are loved for all that you are, imperfections and all. Most everyone is on some sort of path to self-improvement, ultimately craving self-acceptance and acceptance of others. Knowing this, why, then, do we not allow ourselves and others to “be real” at any given time without labeling one reality better than another? We are ultimately served by embracing our authenticity—learning tools to express ourselves as compassionately as possible. What gets in the way of authenticity is fear of rejection. To protect ourselves from rejection, we build a wall around our heart, and

we create different masks to wear, believing these will help us become more acceptable, more loveable, and closer to our idea of “perfect.” In order to do this, we must look at where we maintain false realities based on fear and rejection. Honest evaluation of these false realities is where healing begins. My own path of self-discovery and healing has been ugly and painful … but no more so than anyone else’s. And I still have a lot of work to do. Sometimes I want to hide behind a mask or start building up another wall around my heart, but then I remember who I am, that I am doing my best, and that even my best won’t ever be good enough for some. I’ve tattooed Aham Prema (Sanskrit for “I Am Divine Love”) on my wrist, and when I doubt myself, I close my eyes and chant, “Aham Prema.” You get me as I am, flaws and all. I accept you, flaws and all.

DeAnna Shires Nielsen, M.Ed. E-RYT 500, is a strong believer in the value of yoga for emotional healing, and incorporates Ayurveda, Psychology of the Energy Body, Pranayama, Meditation, and Mantra into her teachings for a holistic yoga experience. Her playful spirit encourages laughter, exploration, and the freedom to Bliss Out and Be. “Heal yourself, Heal the World!”

I believe, at our core, Divine Love is our connection, and we are the same. | 95

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