I woke up a few days ago with the sense that my life as I had known it had come to an end. What contributed to that feeling was the fact that I had completed a book that took me a year to write and a lifetime to experience.
The book, titled "Unbinding the Heart: A Dose of Greek Wisdom, Generosity and Unconditional Love," is a collection of stories of the experiences in my life that led to my own unbinding. Originally, I planned to write a book that would offer seven or eight steps on how to unbind the heart, but instead thread by thread, string by string, I had unraveled the tangles, returning to the simplicity of my heart. I realized, in sharing my own story, I could open the door for others to share their stories.
As I spent a year looking back, it became clear to me that the things that I thought I wanted that did not happen and the "dreams" that were not fulfilled made me wiser and pointed me in the direction of my true calling. I looked at my longings and they became guideposts to go inside myself and find inner wealth and strength. I recognized how there was a master plan for my life, and that in fulfilling that plan I was not alone -- and none of us are ever alone.
In writing the book, I saw how my life's journey was like a river. Following the bends of that river, I hit some rocks on the way, and some twists and turns tried to stem the flow. Sometimes the water struggled and slowed to a trickle, but it never stopped flowing.
Some of the obstacles in the river of my life were the false images that I had built around me, which restricted me from being who I truly am. In the process of learning to live with an unbound heart, I discovered the liberation that came from accepting my imperfections. I re-examined the values that I had inherited from society, which erected dams against my natural flow. These beliefs of perfection and accomplishment had guided what I should be and become in order to fit in and be recognized by others -- but they did not allow me to find true happiness for myself.
We all have many chances to redefine success for ourselves and not play according to the rules, but it takes a lot of courage (and my favorite "Greek" word chutzpah) to find our inner authority and claim what works for each of us. I was both guided and tested. I realized I am not just the sum of my personality, beliefs, upbringing, genetics, thoughts and emotions. I am so much more than all that.
One of the most profound experiences I went through was witnessing the passing of my parents, which more than anything else connected me to the essence of life, love. In writing about what made me who I am today, I had experienced a catharsis and brought closure to the chapters of my life until now. I didn't know how therapeutic writing those stories would be, until I was immersed in the process.
As I went through this retrospective, I arrived at a place of deep knowing that what matters the most is to free and open our hearts, and our lives' experiences are really a pathway to that knowing.
This is why I am sharing all this with you now. I am entering a new chapter in my life that I would love for you to be a part of. What I want to do is to encourage others to share how they unbind their hearts. I am looking for a few willing men and women to start the conversation of fearless unbinders. What binds you and what unbinds you?
In the midst of all our struggles, it is comforting to know that we hold the master key to our own lives. And if we pay attention, all sorts of solutions arise to help us. Each one of us has our own way to unbind our hearts, but we all need help, encouragement and a haven to embark on the journey and stay the course. There are no seven or eight simple steps to unbind our hearts, but there is one choice that we all have: Do I shut down or do I choose to open up one more time, even deeper?
Think about this for a moment as you come and sit down with me. Imagine we're sitting under an olive tree on a midsummer afternoon, sharing a Greek picnic of olives, feta cheese, fresh garden tomatoes, home-baked bread, a wonderful chilled Greek wine, some watermelon and some grapes, and sharing the joy of simply being alive. While the breeze wafts away our worries, I offer you my stories, from my open heart to yours.
It doesn't matter how big or small our challenges and victories are. It is our story, and it matters because each one of us matters. Share some of your story with us -- tell us about a moment during which your heart was open and free and you felt connected. Leave your story in the comments below and you could win a signed copy of my book. (See below for instructions on how to enter).
I leave you with this question. Place it in your consciousness before you go to bed tonight and ask yourself: How would your life be if you lived with your heart open and free and you knew your story mattered?
Unbinding the Heart Giveaway:
To enter, leave a comment below telling us about a time "when your heart was open and free and you felt connected."
You could win a signed copy of Agapi Stassinopoulos's new book "Unbinding the Heart" worth $19.95.
Comments must be left before 9 A.M. ET Tuesday November 1.
Winner will be chosen 10 A.M. ET Friday November 4.
Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older. You may enter one time. One winner will be selected in a random drawing. Please enter only once. Click here for complete Official Rules.
** The winner will receive his or her signed copy of "Unbinding the Heart" in January 2012.