Most days in Bali, my partner Vince would go out for an afternoon walk. I knew he enjoyed the exercise, alone time, and listening to music, but it quickly became clear he was also having a love affair…

Her name is Lina. 

Eventually my friend Sharon and I started walking with Vince and we quickly became enamored too. 

We could be fifty feet away from the entrance to Lina’s home, and she would come racing around the corner, through the gate, down the road and bowl into Vince with a level of enthusiasm way too big for her tiny puppy body. Jumping, licking, whimpering, twisting, bouncing, chasing, circling, nuzzling. 

This went on for a month or so, and then for several days we didn’t see herI began to feel worried. There are so many dogs in Bali and many don’t make it to old age. The ones that do are often mangy, sick, and constantly begging for food. It’s rare to sit outside at a restaurant and not have a dog panting at your feet waiting for a handout. Bali dogs are almost all docile and sweet, but they are often dirty and persistent. I judged them as a nuisance

On one of our last mornings in Bali, my therapist talked to me about living with an open heart. “But what does that actually mean??” I asked. We’d been having this conversation for a few months now and though I like the idea of it, the area of my heart often feels shut down, hard, blocked. As we talked that day, I was able to recall a recent conversation with friends in which I had closed my heart. It was helpful to see that my heart wasn’t always closed, but that I was closing it during moments of vulnerability

After the session, I laid down and replayed the scene a few times, but practiced it differently. I imagined opening my heart to my friends instead of what I had done, which was act cool, explain too much, look away. By practicing this way, I was instructing my subconscious to be open to a new possibility. 

That afternoon on our walk, Lina reappeared! 

She came around the bend like always but I knew right she was different. Her gate was awkward. Her pace was slower. She had gunk in her eyes. When she got to Vince she seemed as in love as ever but with only half the energy to express it. 

Something is not right,” I said, after we said goodbye and walked away. I felt pressure building inside me and had thoughts like: “This is just what happens.” “She’s just one dog among thousands.” “This is life, It’s no big deal.” “You barely know her.”

But I guess my subconscious had gotten the message that I want to open my heart instead, because as the conscious mind tried to protect me with logic, something inside me said “NO.”  

I stopped right in the middle of the street and instead of trying to defuse the building pressure, I let it rise up within me, break my heart, open my throat, and burst forth.  Vince held me as I sobbed and sobbed, just letting my body shake and my heart break. I felt a little foolish, but I also felt honest, and alive. 

Live to the point of tears

This probably lasted three minutes, though it felt like fifteen, and in the experience I thought it might last forever.  “Ahh.” I thought, in between waves of tears, “This is why we close our hearts. How would we ever get anything done?  And also, This F***ing hurts!” 

By the next day, I noticed a change in myself. A stray dog curled up next to my feet at breakfast and I felt warmth instead of irritation. I actually felt touched that this being wanted to be near me. I still didn’t want to pet the dog while I was eating, but I didn’t have to close my heart anymore. 

We saw Lina one more time before we left and she actually looked healthier. Maybe she just had a dog flu. We can hope.

It’s possible though, that we might not see Lina again in the wagging flesh. But by letting my sadness flow for her, she will live on, maybe forever, in my heart.



PS. Do you struggle to allow your sadness? I recorded this 12-minute welcoming meditation to help myself and others navigate sadness. 




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