Uncorked in Italy – Letting Go of Pain

Twenty years ago at forty years old, I was in such excruciating back pain that I could hardly walk, sit at a desk, unload the dishwasher or even get out of bed in the morning. After surgery, many visits to various doctors, and growing panic that I would never get better, I found a healer/body worker name Shelly. The first time I met with her she asked me, “Do you believe you can live without pain?”

When I told her that I wasn’t sure, she explained how hard it would be to heal if I was clinging to the belief that healing was impossible. She let me in on another secret that day, too. She told me, “The Universe wants to support you in every way that it can. The more you trust and let go, the more it will do for you.”

Week by week, in my visits to Shelly, I learned that the pain in my body was connected with emotional pain and old ways of defending myself. Fear of being hurt or feeling pain had created blocks, both limiting beliefs and physical impediments to movement.

My father had recently died after a seven-year battle with cancer. My mother had been suffering from a degenerative neurological disease and severe depression for 13 years. My sister and I were responsible for managing her care in our hometown, a day’s travel away for me. I had three children (ages 8, 10 and 12) and was finding it hard to hold my marriage together. My then husband worked long hours, traveled a lot, and we had a hard time finding common interests other than the children.

I had convinced myself that my job was to care for others. I had largely given up on my own work and career. But Shelly and the back pain had gotten my attention. That summer, I decided to take a ten-day intensive summer language class in Italian at my alma mater, Dartmouth, which was just down the street from where I lived. The children were away at camp. My husband was on a business and golfing trip.

I indulged myself in Italian not for any productive reason but for pure pleasure. It was fun. Every day was an adventure in learning not just a new language but a really different culture. At the end of the ten days, I stood with my class to sing an aria from an Italian opera despite a limiting belief that told me I was tone deaf and couldn’t carry a tune. I felt like I was flying.

I also began practicing yoga with a friend of Shelly’s, overriding the old limiting belief that I would hurt my back if I tried. I started slowly, just doing breathing and the gentlest of poses. As soon as I started trying things that I had thought were impossible, the Universe began helping in small but important ways.

Then, seven years later, a big thing happened. An acquaintance at the Dartmouth Business School called to say that his former college roommate was starting an honors program for Italian university students in Milan. He wanted to know if I would go to teach there for a semester.

I was terrified. My limiting beliefs told me that I couldn’t. It had been years since I had taught university students. And how could I just take off and leave my family? Even though my parents had both passed away, two children were going to boarding school, and one was leaving for college, my husband would still be at home.

Then, my husband informed me that he was leaving for a six-week business and golf trip in Australia and New Zealand. The Universe was really doing its thing. After having said “No.” twice, I called the Director in Milan to tell him I would come.

A year later, I had the courage to tell my husband that I couldn’t stay in the marriage. My back pain, which had come and gone for years, dissolved. I completed 200-hour yoga teacher training in the States but still lived half the year in Italy. There, I was doing yoga, dance and meditation classes and retreats all in Italian. Meanwhile, I continued teaching for three years until the program ran into budget problems and the Director, who had hired me, left.

The Universe was at it again. The limiting beliefs said that it was time to go home and live a “normal” life. But my “real” self wanted more adventure. I had always wanted to be a writer, and I was fascinated by Italian wine. I found a writing group in Milan and signed up for professional sommelier training course.

The back pain only returned if some external event caused an old limiting belief to grip me again. Four years after I had finished my sommelier training, my ex-husband wrote a series of strong emails and stopped paying alimony. I had been working for an important New York wine retailer, but had given up the job to go back to writing. Every doubt I had about what I was doing and my capacity to support myself resurfaced. I was once again in mind-bending pain.

The only way out was in. I had to sit for weeks with the old limiting belief that I was not worthy…not even of the alimony my husband legally owed me. My mind told me that I needed to work harder, do more, perform better in order to be worthy. But my body forced me to let that old belief go. It told me to relax, live gently, do what I loved, enjoy, and let the Universe support me. Four months later, the alimony inexplicably began again.

That was five years ago. I could write pages about the crazy synchronicities and opportunities that have come my way. My children are now grown (27, 29 and 31), living and working in Boston, Los Angeles and Denver. I return to the States to visit them, and they come to see me.

I’m living my dream in a farmhouse outside of a hill town in wine country in the southern part of Tuscany. I do yoga, meditate and dance without pain. I write a blog, recounting stories of organic and biodynamic Italian winegrowers, who have inspired me and whose wines I love. And recently, I’ve created a small business giving off the beaten track travel advice, leading wine tastings and teaching courses.

My life feels more and more full of abundance. Recently, I wrote my ex- husband to forgive the remaining years of alimony that he owes me. I had been dependent on him for years, and it suddenly felt like he had paid me enough. I let go with gratitude for all the ways that his payments had freed me up to heal. As for the future, releasing the alimony felt like a big vote of confidence in myself and in my knowing that the Universe is truly supporting me in all that I do. I still go back for bodywork sessions with Shelly and to tell her all the crazy beautiful things that keep happening in my life. I feel overwhelming gratitude for her and for the support she has given me over twenty years. She is part of the Universe’s ongoing support for me.

Eleanor color

Storykeeper: Eleanor Shannon

Since 2004, Eleanor has lived in Italy where she created Uncorked In Italy. She writes the stories of organic and biodynamic winegrowers, gives travel advice for “off the beaten track” adventures in Italy and leads courses in Tuscany based on her experience of finding her feminine, creative power in Italy. Her life has been transformed by allowing space to experience the pleasure of the senses (food, wine, natural beauty, dance, yoga, meditation, etc.) and living in the joy of the moment.

She has three grown children, is an Italian wine sommelier, has 200-hour Yoga and Yoga Nidra teacher certification, a BA from Dartmouth and an MBA from Harvard.


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