I’m on my yoga mat; my head is resting on my outstretched legs. It’s very quiet - except for the last drops of the morning rain bouncing off the roof. Melanie’s soothing voice is guiding me and the rest of our small group to surrender into a “Caterpillar” - a classic Yin Yoga pose. “Find your edge...just be present with the sensation. Keep breathing...”
My hamstrings feel like they haven’t been stretched for decades, but as the minutes go by I feel how they begin to open up. My whole body is relaxing. My mind is becoming calm and serene. I love Yin Yoga.
When the class ends, I walk silently out of the yoga hall, to put my mat away. Breakfast is waiting for us. I’m relaxed, energized, and very grateful to know that fresh fruits, cereals, yogurt, eggs, and tortillas are waiting for me in the dining hall.
“Thank you, Melanie,” I say quietly to my guide, while we both stack our mats into a neat pile. She smiles back - equally grateful for having shared this sweet practice. The sun is now shining brightly. It’s another gorgeous tropical morning at El Cielo.
Melanie Doré first arrived at El Cielo (Choose Again's residential retreat center) in 2016. She discovered us while still living in Vancouver.
“I was in a low place,” she tells me in the conversation we had in preparation for this article, “A friend of mine noticed that I was not doing well, and pointed it out.
I was searching the internet for healing and found Diederik (the founder of Choose Again). I decided to reach out and managed to get a very short Skype session, like 10 minutes (laughing). After that, it was clear that I wanted to go”.
It took some effort to secure time off from her work, teaching in a French-speaking elementary school in Vancouver (she’s originally from Quebec).
“I arrived as a client for only a few weeks. When the time was up, I didn’t want to go back home. I felt that maybe I wasn’t ready. But it was as much time that I could afford, because of my job.”
She decided to come back again as a volunteer last summer for a more extended period. “It took some time to open up to what is being taught here. I was very stubborn. I still am (she laughs). But you can’t deny the power of the Six Steps.”
In September this year (2017), Melanie arrived back to the center - this time to train as a full-time staff member. It was a decision that required a leap of faith and a commitment to healing and Self-love:
“When I went back to Vancouver after volunteering, I felt quite overwhelmed by my job. I had the tools, but I didn’t apply them all the time. I kept going to Choose-Again circles in Vancouver, and I could see how they would always help me shift the way I was thinking. I felt ready for a transition in my life and ready to leave Vancouver. So I made up my mind to come back to El-Cielo for an extended period.”
Once Melanie qualifies as a full-fledged Choose-Again team member, she will be leading circles and working directly with the clients at El-Cielo to train in the Six-Steps. Meanwhile, she teaches Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra four mornings a week. She also facilitates some of our afternoon programs.
In your view, how does yoga practice fit into the healing work we do here?
“Yoga is ultimately about awareness and awareness is such a big part of my healing. So I try to bring to others what resonates with me.”
Why were you drawn to teach Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra, and not the other ‘Hatha’ styles in which you also trained?
“Yin is a beautifully deep, meditative and reflective practice that cultivates awareness and stillness. Yin means the feminine, the passive, the moon, the night, the dark, the cold, the mysterious.
In the practice of Yin Yoga, the movement of the body is almost secondary. What’s most important is to connect to the body, with breath and to bring more awareness into the practice. It's what drew me to yoga, and Yin Yoga does that very well.”
In regards to your inner-work, which of the six steps do you still find the most challenging?
“Step One. The challenge is to admit to myself when I’m not loving. I’ve spent a whole life practicing denial, ignoring my painful feelings or saying to myself ‘oh it’s not a big deal’ or ‘it’s worse for other people.'
“But spending time at El Cielo and in circles helps me to recognize that ‘there are no small upsets.' So I am becoming more conscious of the parts of me that I have been ignoring or don’t want to see...the ego!”
What do you feel most grateful for, right now?
“I’m so grateful that I can create my life from a new place. I've removed a lot of what was not serving me in my life; mainly the very rigid school structure. It’s true that I am still a teacher here at the center. But it’s very different now.
I’m also very grateful for the Six Steps. They freed me from the idea of finding a guru or an external healer. I no longer put anyone on a pedestal. Now it’s about me taking ownership of my healing.
And I’m also very grateful that I’m here at El Cielo, surrounded by mindful people who all have the same goal. It’s amazing.”
What would you advise to someone who is reading this article and practicing the Six Steps?
“Be compassionate with yourself. I am still learning to forgive myself every-time I notice that I have slipped back into my old thought patterns.
In my room, I used to have lots of reminders posted on the walls. They reminded me to stop beating myself up. 'Positive affirmations' may not work for everyone - and they do have their downsides in the context of the work we do here - but they worked for me.
Personally, I need reminders to remain willing to heal. The commitment to healing is probably still the biggest challenge.”
So how do you keep this commitment alive?
“I just keep training my mind.
When I see that I attack myself or others, I can inwardly ask am I willing to heal?”. This question reminds me that I have the freedom to choose. I then forgive and re-set. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t always choose to let go of my upsets. But at least I know I have the choice.”
Maybe we should create a phone app that would send regular reminders to ask the question “Am I willing to heal?”
“Yes! Like those apps that remind people to drink a glass of water every hour.״
We are very grateful to Melanie for choosing to join our team here and to offer her unique gifts as a teacher, a yogi and committed practitioner of the Six-Steps.
Her presence here is another reminder that healing and transformation is a simple choice, just like drinking a refreshing glass of water.
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