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When Gavin and I lived with my brother Chris, my nephew Isaac often joined us on walks, which I loved. One day, we were traipsing through their neighborhood when an off-leash dog approached us. I panicked and yelled, “Go, go, go,” while my heart raced, and I emphatically flailed my arms around. Gavin and Isaac looked at me dumbfounded. Neither had heard me raise my voice or seen me move so intensely.

Isaac’s asked me multiple times since then why I overreacted so much. He’s pointed out that the dog was friendly, based on all the body language cues I’ve shared over the years, to keep him safe. And every time we talk about it, I realize that I’m still trying to heal from the attack Gavin and I endured years ago on a walk.

Walking my dog has always been a moving meditation, but fear changed that (for Gavin and me), so I did more yoga. Because I love being outside when the weather is nice, I took my yoga mat onto Chris’s back deck several times. However, I was so self-conscious that the neighbors might see or judge me that bending and balancing on my mat wasn’t relaxing or the release I needed.

I’ve had multiple conversations this week that I’ll keep vague to protect the privacy of the phenomenal people in my life. One person mentioned her goal this upcoming year is never to cry. And the other person was beating himself up for annoyance at his family for a minor inconvenience.

We spend time understanding our dogs’ needs and, even more, giving them space and permission to be lazy or overactive, easy-going or overthinking, or silly or serious. Why don’t we do that for ourselves? Why don’t we give ourselves time to cry and release sadness or grief to move on with our day lighter and freer? Why don’t we permit ourselves to feel a little frustrated so it doesn’t build up and block our connection with ourselves and others?

This past Sunday, after years of wanting to do yoga outside but being afraid to do so, I rolled out my mat, opened my laptop, and spent 45 minutes glorious minutes not thinking about anything but permitting myself the joy of yoga with my dog by my side. 

And I’m pretty sure if my neighbors happened to look out the window while I was in a downward dog, they wouldn’t care one bit.

May you permit yourself to do one thing today that frees your heart and brightens your spirit.

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