Seattle Yoga Arts student
If you practice with Rainey or happen to walk by the studio early on Tuesday mornings, you will encounter a little curly-haired red dog at the reception desk. Your eyes are not deceiving you. He and I have been coming into the studio together for a couple of years now.
Before I tell you about him, I should tell you that I met Denise Benitez when I was 36. For decades I’d struggled with panic disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety, and PTSD symptoms. Habitual negative self-talk, combined with a history of trauma, food restriction, and social avoidance had created a fearful life. A colleague at my dot-com company recommended Denise’s class, raving about her instruction. I was intrigued. I wasn’t sure about yoga, because I’d have to wear body-revealing clothes around people who were more flexible and competent and successful than I could ever hope to be. Despite the efforts of my internal critic, I made it to Denise’s beginner class in 1997.
I’ve never been the person who accelerates quickly to the next level and then the next, and then goes on to achieve “success” – in anything. For me, practicing yoga has been like most things I’ve really wanted – slow, steady, with lots of missteps and some breathing space between plateaus. Sometimes I’m in class, sometimes I’m on my own for long stretches. Denise’s gentle support has always been available when I’ve turned to her. Rainey helped me face my fear of handstands, Meg helped me meditate. Yoga and chanting and meditation have over time calmed my inner critic, quelled the anxiety that’s always coursed through my body. These practices guide me as I continue to retrain my body and mental ‘ruts’, to willfully create a better, more peaceful existence.
I’m not writing this as a rah-rah advertisement for Seattle Yoga Arts. I’m writing it because this community has helped me change, and I’m a junkie for this sort of story. I’m a fool for tales of resilience. I read with fascination how people climb up and out of darkness.So what about the dog? Well, Mickey came into my life three years ago. I was nearing the end of my forties, never married, no kids, too afraid to try to connect to any one person too closely. I’d wanted a dog for a while but was (holy crow, am I really going to say it again??) scared.
Mickey and I met, and that was it. I fell in love and there were no doubts. He came to my home to live. People talked to me the minute I went outside, and the world I was in was one where people smiled when they saw me. I never knew what that was like. A dog can open many doors for a shy, socially anxious person and Mickey’s bouncy poodle walk and bright orange curls attracted a huge amount of positive attention. I started to have the best, most sweet human energy spilled and poured out at my feet.OK, so this pup saved my life. No joke. The world morphed from a scary, bad place to one where I was able to see brightness, I saw love in peoples’ eyes, I saw happiness and gentle sweetness. It happened way, way faster than the yoga journey did, I’ll tell you. I had to breathe through all of these interactions, steady myself as I talked with people, because you see I was unpracticed at seeing the good. My doggie made it easy for me.
Denise has graciously allowed me to bring Mickey to the studio, where I work as a receptionist on Tuesday mornings. Mickey does the hard brave ice-breaker work while I turn on the computer and process payments. After we’re done with our shift, we walk back home and I go to my full-time day job and Mick settles in for a nice long snooze at home, happily exhausted from doing his best work.So to answer the question: yes, it really is a dog at the front desk at Seattle Yoga Arts early on Tuesday mornings. Mickey’s an extrovert, a party animal extraordinaire, a fellow who likes nothing better than to be in a crowd of people. He would love to greet you with his ever-open heart. I’ll be there, too. We hope to see you soon.