CranioSacral Therapy, LGBTQ, Mind, Body, Feelings, Reiki


Hello everyone!

I hope all is well with you. Things are exciting over here; lots of shifts and changes are happening, and it’s all good stuff.

First, I’m closing down the Holistic Center. It’s taken me a while to gather the courage to say it (because then it’s real), but HC has had a good run, and I have big things to do. Working with Earth Medicine has taught me that there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end to everything, and all of it deserves honoring. We will be moving from Traceland Drive the end of May, and we will be in our new spaces by mid June.

My cherished friend, Evanna Bacon, has been the best business partner I could have asked for, and I am so grateful that we were able to spend the last 4 years together. She’s absolutely hilarious, and she has saved my sanity on more than a dozen occasions. Ha. I’m excited for her, and for those of you who have seen her for massage therapy, she can be reached at the same number she has always had.

Next, I am moving to Conscious Healing Therapies in Tupelo, MS, and I am SO thrilled to be offering counseling services and psycho educational groups there!

If you have ever been my CranioSacral therapy and/or energy work client, you may be interested in continuing to work with me. Reach out to me at I have a very special offer for you. I am grateful for your support all these years. I couldn’t have done any of this without you.

For those of you who may not know me well:

I am a provisionally-licensed nationally certified counselor, under supervision with Miki Christy Bryant, LPC-S, NCC, ACHT, at Soulflower Healing Arts in Starkville, MS.

I am a licensed massage therapist (LMT 519), specializing in Integrative CranioSacral Therapy and Somatic Release. I teach CranioSacral Therapy workshops and offer a certification program.

I am a Reiki Master Teacher, and I regularly offer three levels of training, as well as an advanced class for Reiki Masters.

I am an Earth Medicine practitioner, and I train people all over the world in earth honoring practices. If you are interested in Earth Medicine and deeper energy practices, visit my other website.

In my clinical work, I blend evidence-based theory with Earth Medicine principles to create space for my clients to work with sensitive and often painful life material, cultivate embodiment practices, and restore lost power, so they can become more authentic humans. I specialize in somatic (body) issues, including nervous system dysfunction (PTSD, anxiety, and depression), and vagus nerve resilience. I also work with psychospiritual issues and I support folks as they recover from religious maltreatment.

Feel free to reach out to me if you feel that we can work together.


LGBTQ+ Affirming

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CranioSacral Therapy

Not Your Normal Distance Reiki Session


If you are at all familiar with Reiki, you know that it is a beautiful, gentle healing energy that, when sent to a willing recipient, goes exactly where it needs to go in order to bring balance and healing to all aspects of that person’s energy bodies.

In a normal distance healing session, the practitioner and the client determine a time to have their remote treatment; when the session begins, the practitioner sends Reiki while the client sits or rests quietly and receives the treatment. Often, the practitioner may send feedback, sharing what was noticed in the client’s energy body while the treatment was given, and the recipient will share particular experiences and insights that occurred during the session.

My sessions are a bit different.

I combine Usui Reiki with Earth Medicine energy practices in order to address specific needs of your four primary energy bodies, so that these non-physical wisdom bodies can self-correct; when you’re balanced and whole in non-physical reality, your physical reality must shift in response.

When you and I schedule time together, the first thing I will have you do is tell me what is going on in a variety of aspects of your life. What’s happening in your physical body? What emotional challenges are you experiencing? Do you have specific things going through your mind all the time? Any particular worries or concerns? What’s your spiritual connection? Do you feel numb? Do you feel too much? Do you take on other people’s emotions/problems/energy? These are some things we will address together in order for me to have a clear picture of what we’re working with together.

Next, we will schedule time to meet up on a secure web based platform called Zoom for our session. You will receive confirmation of the time, and a private link for you to meet me in my virtual treatment space. If you’ve never used Zoom before, you will be prompted to do a quick, painless download on your laptop, or an app download on your phone.

Then I will prepare on my end by calling in our spiritual support, by asking for any insight and guidance that will support you in your healing process, and by creating a healing container for your remote session.

When we meet online, you and I will discuss your situation and concerns, determine what areas we will be focused on, and have our healing session. If there are any emotions, insights or energetic imbalances that need to be addressed and healed, we will address them. Imbalances may include any personal power loss, scattered energy, “soul loss”, lost energetic protection, or unhealthy attachments. Then we will clear your energetic field, restoring your energy bodies to their natural, vibrant state.

As part of the healing treatment, you will be given exercises to cultivate a healthy, strong energy body and energy container so that you can continue to live and interact with others in a good way. Keep in mind that it’s up to you to keep your energy bodies in healthy condition. You will be given simple tools to help you do this, but it’s an ongoing practice that requires commitment in order for you to experience lasting change.

Would you like to work with me?


Here’s how to do it.

Contact me in the form below. Let me know you want to schedule a Reiki/Earth Medicine energy session with me, and I will send you the registration link and intake form so we can get started!

At this time, all of my sessions are $80, no matter what we work on together; each full session is approximately an hour in length. If you are unable to afford the full healing session, but you would like to request distance reiki be sent to you for a specific issue, let me know and I will talk with you about it. At times I have availability for reduced rate and donation based sessions, so always feel free to ask.


Big love,



LGBTQ Community



The LGBTQ community in Mississippi (and anywhere that my internet connection can reach) has allies at the Holistic Center in Tupelo, MS.

I have worked closely with this community for many years, and I feel that it’s past time to make my position as an ally very clear to the community that’s so close to my heart.

I am aware that making this statement may cause me to lose some clients, and I am at peace with that; but I know that I will be supported and loved, just as I support and love others, and I know that I have some amazing clients who will be very happy to read this post. I am grateful for my life; I am a married, white female, who is privileged in many ways. Last year, when I expressed a deep sadness for being so privileged when others were so not, one of my teachers said, “Dana, use that privilege. Use your privilege as a financially stable, white female to bring relief to those who are struggling. Look at your world. To whom are you in service?” I have always been an advocate for this population, as well as for women who are unsupported emotionally because of diverse spiritual practices.


A beloved family member publicly reached out recently, sharing that she felt she no longer had a family because of the way her immediate family treated her and her partner. I won’t go into details, but know that my heart was moved. Jack’s heart was moved, and we realized that we had not made our love for her and her partner clear. We immediately reached out to her, and we let her know that we not only accept her and her love, but we celebrate her and her love; there is no “tolerance” in this home.

There is also no “tolerance” in my practice. To me, the word tolerance has the connotation, “I don’t approve of what you’re doing, but this is my way of being accepting of you.” It also reminds me of the phrase, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” <– I have very strong opinions about that phrase as well, and I will not be using it on you or anyone else.

If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex or asexual, and you feel that you are not accepted by others, I am in service to you. If you suffer from stress, anxiety, grief, etc., consider working with me to get relief so that you can feel more whole and supported as you do your great, important work in this world.

If you are an LGBTQIA ally, truly an ally, you know what that means and what it can do to your stress levels and nervous system. Please reach out to me to get information on how you can be supported as you hold space and offer your voice on behalf of our amazing community.

If you are not familiar with my work, here are some ways that I can help support you:

In Person:

Remote Sessions (online via Zoom platform):

  • Earth Medicine Healing Sessions
  • Guided Imagery and Titration
  • Energy work (including Reiki sessions and Reiki training)
  • Compassionate Listening (donation based service)

If you have never worked with me before and you are dealing with stress, I suggest you begin with a Compassionate Listening session (linked above). There I provide a gentle, non judgmental space for you to begin to unpack the chaos in your life. Click the link to read more about it.

If any of these offerings interest you, or if you know of someone who needs support, send me a message below. ♡

Resources for LGBTQIA and Allies:

The Icarus Project: Radical Mental Health in a Crazy World
From the website: “The Icarus Project is a support network and education project by and for people who experience the world in ways that are often diagnosed as mental illness.”

Trauma-informed herbalist, Kirsten Hale, has an amazing website and blog where she works with survivors of trauma. The Crazy Herbalist

Herbalist Kelli Hughart uses Sycamore tree essence for people who “feel like the outside and the inside of them doesn’t match.” Personally, I wonder if Sycamore essence could also assist with conflict between “how you feel internally (emotionally) vs what you present to the world.”

Queering Herbalism has a great list of herbal recipes:

Jon Keyes has a great closed Facebook group called Herbs for Mental Health. He’s an herbalist and counselor based in Oregon and he shares some amazing wisdom over there. Jon’s website is Hearthside Healing.

***Personal Disclaimer***

At the time of this post, I am not a licensed counselor. I am working toward that goal, but I want you to be very aware that I am not in any way using counseling skills or any kind of mental therapy in my practice at this time. I have amazing colleagues to whom I can refer you if that’s what you need.


Reiki Treatments

What is Reiki?

Reiki is a Japanese energy technique that is used for stress reduction, relaxation, and for promoting healing. It is administered by light touch or by hovering hands over the client.

We all have a “life force” or “Chi”: If one’s life force energy is low, then we are more likely to feel sick or experience stress more deeply; and if it is high, we are more capable of feeling rested and well.

The word Reiki (ray-key) literally means “Universal life force energy”, or “source energy”… I call it “the energy of all that is”.


Why do we use Reiki?

  • Self-Care
  • Balancing the nervous system
  • Compassionate healing for others
  • Healing and soothing animals
  • Healing and sending nourishing energy to plants/trees
  • Sending love and compassion to Mother Earth

During a Reiki treatment, the practitioner’s hands are lightly placed on or above the client’s clothed body to administer a gentle, but effective treatment. The healing energy is non invasive and helps to stimulate the client’s own inner energy flow.

Its beneficial effects include reduction of stress, reduction of pain or discomfort, relaxation and emotional clarity. These treatments feel like a wonderful glowing radiance that flows through and around the client, treating the whole person, including the body, emotions, mind and spirit.

When you receive a treatment, you will be asked to lie on a massage table, fully clothed. Your therapist will provide a blanket if you need it, and pillows or supports to help you feel more comfortable. Be sure to use the restroom so you will not have to interrupt your session. Feel free to ask any questions and/or share any concerns before the treatment begins. If you feel discomfort for any reason, you are encouraged to tell your therapist so that your comfort is ensured.

1 hour session $80

CranioSacral Therapy, Self-Care

About Dana




I am the proud and grateful co-owner of an integrative holistic practice.  I teach and I train, and I have daily opportunities to witness the healing and transformation of my personal clients and students.  I work part time in the ocean, and part time in other countries, but I am most frequently found at the Holistic Center in Tupelo, MS.

This is what I have found to be true.  I believe that my clients and my students:

  • are powerful, are fully supported, and are able to transform and blossom into their most amazing, authentic selves.

  • know exactly what they need in order to receive the highest and best experience while working with me.

  • are responsible for their own lives and life experiences, and are capable of changing or altering their lives at any moment.

It is my hope that, whether you are my client in my treatment room, my student in one of my trainings, or in the ocean with me swimming with dolphins, you will be inspired to express your radiance and carry your unique medicine into your daily life.

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”  ~Carl Jung

Learn more about my therapy practice

Learn more about training with me

Mind, Body, Feelings

Inner Landscape Discovery Session!



Your subconscious mind is your “inner landscape”. This part of your brain holds very valuable information and, when accessed properly, your life circumstance has the opportunity to shift dramatically for the better.


The Inner Landscape Discovery Session is a process of using ceremony, earth-based tools and heart-centered questions to gain insight, to find positive, proactive responses to life challenges and to formulate grounded strategies for living your most amazing life.

This interaction between you, me, these tools, the questions and your inner self stimulates conditions for deep connection and insightful growth.

Have you ever noticed patterns in your life and wondered what reasoning or teaching was behind them?

Do you wish to make life changes, but just the thought of how to begin feels overwhelming?

In this session, we work primarily with your internal body responses and subconscious insights in order to bring about deeper self awareness and new creative expression.


A session with me is rooted in the belief that my clients always have choices; you create your life through your own choices and through your responses to life events. You will not be seen as a victim, and you will be treated as the empowered and unique individual you are.

I believe that you have all of the love and support that you need, both physical and non physical, seen and unseen; accepting this love and support is your choice.

My work with you is to help you gain insight and clarity, as well as a new sense of purpose. These sessions can happen in person at the Holistic Center or online via a secure platform called Zoom.

Does this work sound like it could be of value to you? Send me a note and let’s talk.


The Compassionate Therapist

Most often, when people come to see us in our clinics and spas, they are looking for help; they want relief from pain, from stress, from feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. And we probably want to help them, or we wouldn’t be in our chosen fields.

How often have you had thoughts like:

I really hope she gets better.
We can fix this.
If this doesn’t work, I’m not charging anything *or I am not charging regular price*
I know this will work. or I’m afraid this won’t work.
Maybe I did something wrong.

Well, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. I have had thoughts like that as well. But you know, those thoughts didn’t help either of us. Ever. I personally feel like our clients know (on some level) when we feel inadequate, insecure with our work or too attached to the outcome of their treatments.

Oh! You don’t do that?


What if you are working on someone very close to you? A dear friend who is in serious pain? A relative who is deeply depressed? Your mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent, child?

How do you feel when that person who means the world to you comes to you for help?

My point is, we all do it; and if you don’t, just wait for it; it’ll happen. Someone will call you and ask you if you will give a comforting hand massage to their loved one in Hospice. Or you may receive a request to give CranioSacral therapy to a child because her parents want her to be able to walk again so badly.

Is the therapy going to work?
Am I doing it right?
Should I charge them if it doesn’t make a noticeable difference?

These are several of the questions that we address in my ethics class, “The Compassionate Therapist“.

This 3-hour class teaches massage therapists how to be fully present with their clients while remaining neutral and separate from the client’s pain or trauma.

If you would like to take this class or any of my other continuing education classes, send me a message on my contact page, or contact me directly at tupeloholisticcenter (at)




The Art of Living

Grief, Forgiveness + Self Worth

Yeah so.

This “Year to Live” business and soft belly practice is turning my world upside down + inside out.

Have you ever read something and thought, “Ohthankgod I don’t need THAT”, or felt a moment of disconnect or detachment when the author of a blog post got a little too descriptive or “deep”?

I felt that way for a long time.  I would read books or blogs that talked about soul work and going deep and diving into emotions, and I thought, “Whew!  I sure am glad I don’t need all that.  I’m just FINE.”

And then I read A Year to Live by Stephen Levine… and I found myself really wanting to experience what was in that book.

I did a little work on myself.  Sure.  But it was superficial… enough to make me cry and get a little uncomfortable… then I wanted to walk boldly away from that stupid shit and go my merry way.

And I knew that this feeling of wanting to turn and walk away was a very significant moment.  It meant that I was standing on the precipice of something amazing.  And if I would just take that next step, my awareness and my beliefs about myself would change.  Beautifully.  Permanently.  But I had a deep suspicion that I would at some point have to experience grief.  And, while I hate that crap, I knew that this entire process was all about “trust”.

Now having had plenty of experience with grief, I knew 2 things about myself before I even stepped into that floral mess.

1.  Grief settles in my lungs, *every dang time*, and I knew I needed some lung support.

2.  When I start working with grief, that old friend named “My-dad-was-killed-when-I-was-7-and-I’m-still-hurting” pops right back up and wants some Dana time.


Am I getting too deep for you yet?

You know, I inherited a lot of my dad’s personality. One of the most significant things I learned from him was that being emotionally tough was the only appropriate way to handle pain and disappointment. I know that, if he were alive today, he might have a different perspective, but from the time I was little, I was not allowed to cry over “nothing”,  and he got to decide what was important and what was nothing.  To this day, if I have to listen to what I think is whining and belly aching, I tend to morph into my dad.

So when it’s time for this girl to experience some gut wrenching, mud rolling, ass kicking, bawling, fit throwing grief… well… all I hear is “You better dry it up or I’llgiveyousumthintocryabout!”

*le sigh*

Just typing this makes me want a cigarette.


I read and practiced the book, A Year to Live, and I have been doing the Soft Belly practice as well as a forgiveness practice when old memories would come up.  The purpose of this practice is to learn to live fully… to be completely present and content with no regrets or old anger / grudges.  It sounds really good on paper, but you know what?  This crap ain’t easy.

Two major things came up for me that I really had to work through:

1.  I had some things happen to me that sucked badly. And I wasn’t so sure I wanted to let go of all of that.

2.  I have done things and said things to people that have hurt them. And I wasn’t so sure I deserve to be forgiven for that.

Then I realized something H.U.G.E.

The only way I can forgive other people for what they did to me is to believe in my own self worth. I have to believe that I can be forgiven. I have to believe that I am worthy of love and compassion and forgiveness.  I need to work on my self worth.

Lots of people say that it’s so much easier to love others than it is to love themselves, but I don’t think that’s true.  I think it is easier to ‘show’ love for others… it’s easier to do for others… it’s easier to say we love others more.  But I have to admit that I am only capable of loving others as much as I am capable of loving myself.   <–Yeah, I’m gonna get some crap over that statement, but I have to own it.

So, I needed to do some really big work around that if I was going to finish this Year to Live business.

This realization led me to Brene´ Brown and her fabulous research on shame, guilt, worthiness and shame resilience.  She writes about learning to become “wholehearted”.  She encourages talking about the hard stuff (to people who have earned the right to hear it) and learning to develop self worth; she talks about connection and living fully and all of that wonderful stuff that everyone wants.

So, what happened to Dana when she merged Stephen Levine with Brene´ Brown?  She jumped right into grief.


Well if you know me, you know that if I’m gonna do time in emo-hell, I’m gonna be comfy. So I got all prepared.  Here’s what I did:

1.  I gathered herbal preparations that support the heart + lungs.

2.  I made a *solitude nest* in the great room.  It’s where I go when I need a space to work through my chit.

3.  I scheduled time for myself that didn’t include playing online. Time to read the books I had picked out, time to journal and express myself and time to talk about my feelings of shame and sadness to close friends who have earned the right to hear it.

4.  I fully embraced the following as part of my self-care routine:  massages, hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, journeying, meditation and foot rubs.

5.  Each time I had a breakthrough, I took time to acknowledge it, I let it integrate and settle before plowing on to the next issue, and I did some ceremony to honor it.

I have become a big believer in recovery time.  I am in that space of recovery right now… that place where I am resting and nourishing myself and loving all of the big, amazing work I have done.  It’s a very vulnerable time right now… where the specifics of what I experienced are tender and so am I.  I am enjoying quiet time and hot teas and lots of sleep and my solitude nest.

I am so very grateful.

Letting the magic in,


Wild Geese + Loneliness



Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

© Mary Oliver

I cried the very first time I read that poem.  And the second time I read it I cried again.  Mary Oliver described me perfectly with this poem, as I am sure she has described many; we share the deep, sharp emotions that are evoked with this piece when we experience life from a deep, sharp, sensory-rich place.

And whenever we are lonely, whenever we feel an isolated sadness *even while in the company of others*, never forget… Never Forget… the world offers itself to our imagination.  We can be as content, as loved, as supported, as connected and as deeply held as we desire.

I received an email from a young man last week… I’ll call him “J”.   He says he is a single male in his mid thirties, and he feels that nothing is going his way.  He has a job, but is making less money than he is accustomed to, and he has no house of his own, not married, no girlfriend, and even though he tries really hard to be happy, he is always sad.  His question to me was, “How can I be happy and improve my life?”

And, while I normally don’t respond to emails of this nature, because really, how could I possibly help him?  Spout off a lot of “silver lining” advice or encourage him to trust in a higher power?  Sure, I could do that, but I don’t want to.

However, I do want him to know that he has been heard, I acknowledge his sadness, and I want him to know he is not alone.  I have also been in a place where I tried really hard to be happy, but I knew something was missing.  I also tried to find it outside of myself… in another person… even though I knew that was impossible (and made for unhealthy relationships).

I feel lots of compassion for J and others like him.  And I can share something that I have learned from my own experience, because really, all we can share with authenticity is what we know.

Love + Compassion

If you are lonely, if you feel that no one cares, if you feel that you are missing deep connection, then do something for someone else.  Go spend time with animals in a shelter.  Go visit people in the nursing home.  Get out of your house and do something for a neighbor.  Get involved with a program that feeds the homeless.  Basically, when you are lonely and lacking connection, the act of helping another being dramatically reduces that lonely feeling.

When you give compassion and love, you are “living” that connection that you want someone to offer you.

I am going to tell you something that I will believe with every little piece of my DNA for the rest of my life:

If you want someone to entertain you, love you, show you attention, complete you, BE with you, blah blah blah, you will never ever ever be satisfied.  Because No one can ever fill your empty places.  I don’t care how cute, how smart, how giving how *fill in the blank* that person is.  You take care of your own business.  You fill those empty places yourself.  Take responsibility for your own happiness.  Because no one else will Ever be able to completely satisfy you.  I promise this.  And I love you enough to say it.

Take this information and make a decision today to fall madly, deeply and irrevocably in love with yourself.

You’ll have people jockeying for position to be near you in no time.

But first, you have to do your inner work.

Now, go live it.  I believe in you.


The Art of Living

Soft Belly Practice


Softening the Belly… of Sorrow
by Stephen Levine • New Mexico

Reprinted from: Unattended Sorrow: Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart ©
by Stephen Levine (Rodale, 2005.)

We hold our grief hard in the belly. We store fear and disappointment, anger and guilt in our gut. Our belly has become fossilized with a long resistance to life and to loss. Each withdrawal, each attempt to numb our grief, turns the belly to stone. Have mercy on this pain you have carried for so long, the pain that sometimes makes you want to jump out of your body.

Quite naturally, in the process of girding for self-protection, our belly guards old wounds and steels for the battle. Over the years, we have buried the ache of impermanence and the remnants of fear and helplessness there. A shield develops across our abdomen, which mirrors the armoring over our heart. As we soften around the sensations and gradually move into them, they melt at the edge. It’s not opposing the hardness but rather meeting it with soft mercy, knowing that we cannot let go of anything we do not accept. But sometimes, as much out of exhaustion as self-mercy, we momentarily let go of the rigidity that holds our suffering in place. Our belly softens just for a moment, and we get a glimpse beyond grief.

When we soften the fear-hardened belly, letting go of the tightness gives us space in which to process afflictive emotions. When we begin to soften to the knot of sensations that accompany a sense of loss in the belly, heart and mind, there is a gradual release of pressure. As we soften to the fear, anger and distrust that hardens us against life, we discover a lifetime’s worth of grief in the belly. This is our unattended sorrow, from beyond which some inherent mercy calls upon us to release the heart.

As we soften the belly, letting go of trying to control the rise and fall of each breath but instead observing it as sensations come and go with each inhalation and exhalation, we begin to free level after level of holding. In the levels and levels of softening are levels and levels of letting go. Let old holdings begin to float in the new openness created by softening, as there arises a new willingness to heal, to go beyond our pain. As we begin to soften the belly, we unburden the body and mind of their automatic withdrawal from and walling-off of pain. As these burdens begin to lift, we find ourselves a bit lighter and the road ahead that much easier to travel; we’re a bit more able to continue on with our lives.

“Going on with our lives,” though it may seem somehow sacrilege, is in our own time the work we do to honor the life we share with all who have ever been born and will ever die. By opening into the possibilities of the heart, expanding the space that is able to absorb all that is let go of, we are able to find our own true compass of what is appropriate to our own healing and go mercifully on with our lives.

Gradually, our attention settles into the abdomen and begins riding the rising and falling of the ocean of our breath. On the inhalation, the belly rises with the tide. On the exhalation, the tide goes out. A liberating awareness begins to settle in as we soften to the breath and to the distrust that hardens us to life. Let thoughts come and let thoughts go in a soft belly, without holding, and without resistance.

The healing practice of attending our sorrow is done by: Sitting quietly, closing your eyes and just letting your attention come into the sensations of the body. Feeling the body you sit in, you begin to bring your attention into the abdomen, feeling the belly rise and fall with each breath. And you begin to soften the abdominal muscles, letting go of whatever holding tightens your belly and maintains your suffering, softening the tissue all the way into the belly.

Make room for the breath as it breathes itself in soft belly, noticing how much grief there is in the form of resistance and an ache held deep in the belly. So much fear and armoring. Let it all float in soft belly, not hardening it to suffering, just letting it be in soft belly, in merciful belly.

Let go with each inhalation, softening the belly. Let go with each exhalation, making peace. Soften the belly to uncover the heart. Each exhalation lets out the pain. Make room for our life in soft belly.

Expectation, judgment, doubt and all sorts of old griefs congregate in the belly. Softening allows them to disperse. Pains, fears and doubts dissolve into the softness, the spaciousness of a merciful belly. Even the hardness floats in the softness. And there’s nothing to change; we are just attending to ourselves; there is no urgency in soft belly.

There is room for our pain in soft belly. The spaciousness in the belly mirrors the opening of the heart.

When you open your eyes, maintaining this increased awareness, notice at what point the belly tightens once again. At what point does the sense of loss reassert itself and you feel a need to protect against further pain? At what point does the armoring reestablish its long presence?
Soften with the eyes wide open to the world, softening to the pain we all share and the legacy of healing exposed in our deepening softness.

Many people say they come back to softening the belly dozens of times a day. And it’s a better day for it. Some begin the day with this exercise for fifteen minutes or more and notice how this softening in the body produces a deeply relieving letting go in the mind.

There are considerable gradations of our capacity to stay soft and work with things that we don’t think we can. When we think we’re not up to our grief, that’s a form of grief. When we distrust ourselves and the process, our grief sometimes misinforms us about our capacity to work with it. When we soften to that grief, we find that even when we feel hopeless, we are not helpless.
Softening the belly won’t perfect us, but it can set us free. It initiates a letting go which frees the mind to open the heart.

We hold our unattended sorrow hostage in the belly, marbled in the muscle tissue with fear. Our resistance to life and our impatience with ourselves rigidifies the belly and excludes the possibilities of the heart. It makes shallow the breath. But softening the muscles, softening even the flesh, letting go of the age-old tension held there as if our life depended on it, invites the breath, invites life, deeper within.

When we come back again and again throughout the day to a soft belly, a sense of ease increases, which allows the quality of being loving to flow unimpeded, as natural as breathing.
Softening the belly demonstrates how self-mercy affects our reality.

In a soft belly, there is room to live and to grow, as our nature allows. Room to let go of the judgment that considers us somehow imperfect, room to send with each softening breath loving kindness into the grateful heart.

Steven Levine is the best-selling author of many books, including A Gradual Awakening and Embracing the Beloved (co-authored with his wife Ondrea.) With her, he has counseled terminally ill people and their loved ones for more than 30 years. His renowned work in grief counseling has inspired radio segments and interviews as well as magazine articles. Videos and audiotapes are available through: