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Mass. woman turns personal tragedy into triumph

By Sara Feijo
The Patriot Ledger / July 21, 2012
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SCITUATE, Mass.—On a deck overlooking Fourth Cliff and Humarock Beach, Mi Sun Donahue teaches a yoga class. With her pepper-colored hair in a ponytail, Donahue, 58, reminds students that yoga is a competition within oneself and nobody else.

Her words are peaceful. Her smile, friendly. Her quest for tranquility, contagious. "One more inhale and exhale," she said. "Make sure your stomach is engaged ... inhale up and when you do twist you're detoxing yourself."

Yoga is just one example of how Donahue helps inspire others to turn their tragedies and challenges into triumph. Donahue, whose painful past includes a divorce, fleeing her native South Korea, and her mother's death when Donahue was just 3, is finishing her memoir, "The Journey of a Motherless Daughter."

"The loss of my mother defined who I would become," she said. "The rest in between just became a lesson, and I didn't want to lose any lesson."

In addition to teaching yoga, Donahue runs Mi Sun's Originals, a website that sells inspirational gifts, such as a magnet that reads "Smile My Friend," a wristband that says "Be the Change" or a coffee mug with the words "What would you change about your life if you knew you wouldn't fail?" (Prices range from $3.95 to $43 for gift packages.)

Donahue said her motivation for helping others is because she doesn't want anyone to feel like she did. Her father was rarely around, her mother was dead and her aunt told her she was "cursed." "I thought God didn't love me that's why he took my mother," she said.

Donahue came to the United States in 1970. She is remarried and has three children. Looking back at her life, Donahue realized that her story can help others.

"I recognized that my mother was merely a 27-year-old young woman, who really didn't have a life, so I began to wonder what kind of life she wished for herself because when you're a child you think about what you lost, what you want," she said. "But as I became a mother and older, I realized it was beyond me."

Writing is therapeutic for Donahue and she's been writing for "as long as I can remember." First, she wrote in Korean. Then, after being in the U.S. for a year, she started to write in English. In her book, Donahue describes her difficult childhood, the loss of her mother, severe depression in her 20s and how she finally came to terms with her mother's death nearly 40 years later. "I never write anything I don't experience," Donahue said.

Students said Donahue always has time to help them after yoga class.

"(Yoga) is a philosophy with her. It's part of her life philosophy," Nancy Sones said.

Friends and students said she is always concerned with their well-being.

"She's one of the nicest people I've ever met in my entire life," said Cherie Beane, who has known Donahue for three years. "... She's very encouraging and optimistic."

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