Pledge to Live.

Via Melissa Smith
on Oct 29, 2011
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From squatting deeply, I stood up and opened my eyes to see my friend on the sticky mat next me, frantically whispering, are you OK? Are YOU ok?

Our mats lined us up like sardines from one end of the room to the other all to practice with one of San Francisco’s most popular, up and coming rock star yoga instructors. The forced, rapid exhales filled the damp and dimly lit space where a colorful Ganesh surrounded in a pink lotus blossom illuminated one wall. As my head began to throb, I realized that I must have blacked out and fallen hard. I mumbled, “how did I get to the floor?” Hauling myself off it to join the rest of the class in what was beginning to feel like a sweat lodge, my ego begged to keep going. Balancing on one foot felt impossible. On two feet: a struggle. The teacher’s assistant asked if I’d like something. “Water, please.” Instead she returned with an energy bar. Confused, I finally wobbled out of the room, only to shiver in the cool lobby for the next hour or so while thumbing through a self-help (or Self Enlightenment, as they’re called these days) book I found.

Resolved to treat this experience as yet another tutorial in humility, I was overdue. It had only been a day or so since the last one. These lessons come so rapidly that it feels like I should grab my son’s body armor and shield used for Nurf wars. The darts feel like they are flying aimlessly but if I duck just slightly to the right or under, I just might miss them. Until suddenly, I realize that I am throwing darts of doubt, fear, judgment, expectations, comparison…at myself, and then I just simply stand. Allow them to come until I can no longer feel them, numb and passive.

I attended a yoga immersion the day after my fall. My head still feeling the sting of the collapse and the warning stamped firmly into my heart, I spent the next 5 days learning from some of the most gifted, and affecting teachers I’ve ever had. With over a half a dozen veteran teachers, I felt inexperienced and humbled. Day 4, I put down my internal shield and imaginary sword and dealt face to face with insecurities with a healing cry. By day 5, exhausted and overflowing with a new kind of energy, I began to resemble the confident me I was in during my journeys to Thailand this summer.

Fainting is defined as a transient loss of consciousness. I return again to taking off the layers of armor that I hide behind and allow these teachings to come, regaining the consciousness that I’ve deliberately shoved aside. Reflecting on the book I flipped through in the lobby after fainting, one passage read  “… lean into the sharp points.” What I think she meant was allow the difficulties and stress of life to not affect who you are.

The sharp points or darts: comparing myself to someone else’s body or apparent glamorous life; hurtful actions and gossip among “friends”; missing my son’s soccer games; not completing a project or meeting many self-imposed deadlines; watching my father struggle with his wife’s Alzheimer’s with feelings of helplessness; and failure in marriage pierce my soul.

When I resist the sharp points, they hurt. When I ignore them, I am numb. When I surrender, I am alive. I begin to live again. A friend reminded me of my life’s intention. How could I forget? The word “LIVE” in Chinese characters are tattooed on my foot, so that when I fold forward or fall down, my only view is that of life. By moving into myself, I am aware that I have always been in possession of my own completeness. I am reminded to live.

Photo credits: Melissa Smith

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About Melissa Smith

Melissa is a freelance writer, zealous traveler, momma, and AcroThaiTherapeuticsYogaLifeStudentOccasionalTeacher. She leads advanced teacher trainings for Leeann Carey Yaapana Yoga, specializing Therapeutic Partner Practice and hosts retreats in Texas, Thailand & New Orleans for Grace Yoga Retreats. Connect with her on Facebook, her Grace Yoga Blog, and Twitter. or read other Elephant Journal articles.


20 Responses to “Pledge to Live.”

  1. David says:

    Great article!!! So true.

  2. melissa says:

    thank you! thank you. 🙂

  3. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Love this Melissa! Please join us on Facebook!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  4. melissa says:

    thanks Tanya! grateful!

  5. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    The thanks is mine! 🙂

  6. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage. xx

  7. Jeanette says:

    Beautiful Melissa! I love reading your posts, so authentic and filled with deep truths and inspiration. You are amazing! Thank you

  8. Melissa – you, your words and your pictures are inspiring. I look forward to reading even more from you here on Elephant!

  9. says:

    With so much email flooding our inboxes, rarely do I make a point to read wach one except when it's Elephant Journal hoping to catch an entry from Melissa Smith. Rarely is one able to share so much of their personal journal while at the same time infusing the article with universal truth and wisdom. Love, love, love the article! Looking forward to more!!!

  10. Ed Warnicke says:

    It's always the second arrow, never the first, that truly stings…

  11. […] Pledge to Live. ~ Melissa Smith […]

  12. Denise Jernas says:

    I really love this spoke right to my heart and opened my mind to possibilities. The words are so powerful, and ring so true.
    Denise Jernas

  13. Laurence Gilliot says:

    Thank you for being who you are, so authentic, sweet, generous. Your wisdom resonates deeply with me. You are such a beautiful being. So often I think about you especially when I'm teaching. I feel your support on the journey.

  14. melissa says:

    thank you Jen… love your articles. raw. full. lovely. yoU!.

  15. melissa says:

    thank you. lovely. looking forward to supporting uncoolbeans in Houston soon!! 🙂

  16. melissa says:

    very insightful, Ed. always insightful. thank you.

  17. melissa says:

    loving you, sweet denise. you are a gift. xo

  18. melissa says:

    Laurence, as always, your sweet words all the way from across the globe mean so much… june is too long to see you but… I smile when I think of you… opening to grace… love it. in joy!!

  19. melissa says:

    thank you! means a lot to me – i admire you dearly as a yogi & mom with your girls. xo