This last yoga teacher training session was the most difficult for me of the three I’ve attended, thus far. We were told in advance that we should bring a symbol of wholeness to share with the class and be able to explain how and why it represents wholeness to us. I brought Bryan and Bella with me, but not to represent wholeness. I brought them because I love being with them and Bryan has a desire to become a yoga teacher. I wanted him to get an immersion with Christina so he could become more educated in the various aspects of yoga and the learning of it. Where Bryan goes, there also must Bella be.
When it came to picking a symbol of wholeness I could share and put on our group puja table, I felt perplexed. Everything I looked at represented wholeness in some way. I struggled to find something of meaning and value that I could lay on the puja table.
Meanwhile, Bryan and I had our mats right next to each other in the teacher training, and Bella stayed in a crate at the back of the room during our lessons. At lunch, we’d take her out and make a picnic. After class ended, the three of us would head up to the camp site and make dinner and create a fire. Being a part of our trinity truly makes me feel whole. I loved how all the 22 other people in the class were so kind and loving to Bella. They all petted her and spoke of her sweetness. She absolutely loved the attention and affection she received from the group. It was truly a beautiful exchange.
Before we’d left Denver, I decided that my symbol of wholeness should be something simple and practical and chose a baggie full of mint life savers for the representation. Why? Well, I thought that each life saver is whole. Each was wrapped in its own individual packaging but together, they made up a whole bag of life savers. When I eat them, I get fresh breath and that makes me feel more wholesome so that I am better able to make wholly-clear connections with others. I’d bought a bag of the mints to keep in my car back in March. I thought that as an Uber driver I ought to have fresh breath and mints to offer others who may complain of needing refreshment. The bag sat in the car for a couple of months, hardly touched and I would eat one here and there, but usually just because I wanted something sweet. I’m giving up sweets again to detoxify, so turns out it was a really practical thing to bring the lifesavers and offer to others.
The second day of our session (Saturday), we broke for lunch. Bryan, Bella, and I headed out to the car that was parked up aways from the meeting room. I began pulling the grill, the cooler, and other items out of the car so we could start making lunch. In the process, I let Bella free. We appeared to be alone, and there was some nice dirt and grassland so I thought it’d be good for Bella to get off her leash and go poo there in that space. She won’t poo with her leash on, but she’s not really safe around other dogs so the only time she usually gets off her leash is when Bryan and I walk her to a doggie park and no other doggies are around. Due to Bella’s background of abuse (that Bryan rescued her from at the age of 6 months), Bella is not able to be around other dogs without fighting. So, I was immediately alarmed when I heard a female voice yelling for me to come get Bella. I turned and started running. I could see that Bella had approached one of our classmates and her huge, fluffy fur-baby. Bryan ran too, but Bella had gotten a mouthful of the other dog before we reached our classmate Emily and her dog Henry. Bella was pulling and growling with her clenched jaw on Henry and Henry was screaming like a scared child. He had no self defense, just cries for mercy, and screams of terror. Emily was absolutely terrified. I began pleading with Bella to please let go. Bryan got on his knees and tried to pry her jaw apart. I experienced sheer terror and helplessness as I cried for Bella to let go. Bryan was forced to choke her into unconsciousness so that she would release her grip. When she let go, Bryan carried her away and Emily and I looked for damages on Henry. There were absolutely no puncture wounds, tears, or bloody spots of any sort. Bella had somehow only latched on to Henry’s fur and he escaped her grip with only the markings of sloppy-wet saliva on the fur by his neck and ear. He was without injury. Both Bryan and Emily were injured with little puncture wounds on their fingers from trying to get Bella to open her mouth. Bryan’s knee got scraped up from wrestling Bella to choke her out.
All of us were terribly shaken up and traumatized over the situation and Bryan and I could not eat lunch. We packed the lunch items back up in the car and headed down to Buena Vista so I could buy some supplies. I thought band-aids and first aid might be needed, but they weren’t. We drove and talked and cried. Bryan said he realized that this was his wake-up call. It was time to get Bella to a safe home where she would have a yard and not have to ever be near other dogs or cats again. We were so lucky the damages were so little. So, after time and Bryan making a call to one of his good friends in Arizona, we arranged to bring Bella to Danny’s house in Mesa, AZ. He has no pets, has a big fenced-in yard, and could use her sweet company. Bryan was crushed with the idea of letting her go. For seven years, Bryan has looked after Bella with the most tender care.
We returned to the teacher training and let everyone know how sorry we were. I told our teacher/leader that we would take Bella away and not keep her in the room after all the trauma. Christina nodded in approval and told us we were doing the right thing.
I felt I needed to stay with Bryan to support him, and I was way too upset to sit through the rest of the lecture. My upset was different than Bryan’s. My upset was that I realized that I would have killed Bella if I had had the right weapon in my hand just so I could protect poor innocent Harry and Emily. I filled up with pure hate for Bella when I saw how she so viciously and unfairly attacked an innocent, harmless doggie. No doubt, I would have pulled the trigger and put Bella down if I’d been a gun owner.
After feeling such murderous feelings, I wanted nothing to do with Bella – not to see her, not to touch her, and certainly, not to feed or care for her. I technically found myself abandoning an extension of my wholeness. Not just abandonment, I felt guilty of murderous removal of the offending part of my own existence. I didn’t do it, so I’m not guilty. However, the guilt of knowing I would have does exist. Beyond this, I went into pure self-loathing for having made the decision to bring Bryan and Bella with me into the yoga teacher training. I got really really angry with myself for making the choice to let her off the leash, too. I felt absolutely toxic throughout my being. I held all the responsibility for this traumatic event in my own being. This went on for hours. Crying, walking, moving around, feeling sick. Both of us were total wrecks back up at the campsite. We had to give each other space and take time alone to deal with our feelings. I wanted to pack it all up and run away in my shame – to go back home and get really busy trying to forget it. However, Bryan was in no mood to pack it up and move it out. We stayed at the camp. We ended up helping another couple chop wood for camp fires. They had an ax, we didn’t; so it was a beneficial collaboration for us all and it moved our energy so that the feelings shifted as we took our time and attention to a task that was greater than ourselves.
The next day, I went back to teacher training alone. I felt the sorrow. I felt ashamed. I felt like the bad kid in the class, you know? I certainly felt less than whole.
I relived the sensation of getting kicked out of the Brownies at age 10, of having my girlfriend Tracy in Florida tell me she couldn’t play with me anymore because I’m not a good girl, of having my best friend dump me in the 8th grade because of my attitude over my family’s divorce, losing my first husband and my son because I felt like a failure at being wife and mother, of losing my ability to keep a job because of the way I (or others) are being treated. Trauma triggers a whole lot of shit in us. Maybe I should say in ME. I had to work through it all. I stayed, examined the pieces of my hysterical psychology as it all came up. I stayed with Bryan (ignoring Bella completely), I stayed in the teacher training, I stayed faithful to the idea that all things work together for the good of all.
It all seems very miraculous to me that the injuries were minor and yet, it all reminds me that at any moment what we believe is reality can change into an unrecognized nightmare in seconds. So, parts get lost. Pieces fall apart. And yet, it is all still whole. Wholeness contains the good and the bad. The dark and the light. And, just last night after I told my family over our video app (Marco Polo) that I was struggling with my own numbness and feelings of toxicity because I could no longer honestly love Bella. I explained that I understood that my inability to love Bella again was keeping me from being able to feel love for myself. This energy of hatred; the desire to cast away what you no longer find appropriate for your peace – it ultimately is the casting off of a part of yourself that you can’t accept. Bella begged for my forgiveness, she sat near me, looking intently at me after I shared my feelings with my family. I could feel her need for my love and acceptance, and I understood that the would-be pit-bull murderer in me also needed my love and acceptance. I forgave us both in an instant, and melted into sobs of relief. I feel whole, again. What an incredible lesson. What an incredible miracle to have come through it without huge blood shed and animal hospital visits. My gratitude is huge, and my desire to stay the path has grown even stronger.