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The Power of Breath: A Dog Story

I was walking my dogs. I have two small dogs, eleven pounds and sixteen pounds, and one blissful Saturday morning under clear, beautiful skies…PIT BULL.

I looked fifty yards up the path and saw an unleashed large, muscular Pit Bull. I love all dogs and believe Pit Bulls have gotten a bad rap by those who have stereotyped the whole breed due to the negligence of a few unethical owners, but this dog was unleashed and in a low stance staring straight at us, its athletic body looking like a runner about to explode out of the blocks.

My dogs were oblivious to their presence. I was watching the dog, wondering what it might do, and I went right into my breath and told myself everything’s cool. I exhaled and then I breathed again and suddenly the dog took off down the hill and straight for us.

I took a breath, allowed calm to flood through my body, and I let the dog come to us. I leaned into the moment. My dogs, slow to recognize the dog coming at them, finally heard him and growled. The Pit Bull arrived and growled in response. I felt utterly calm. I talked in a calming puppy-verbalizing kind of way, saying, “It’s all right, guys. It’s okay.” I allowed the positive energy I was feeling to travel down the leashes. I maintained my breath, sat in the calm I felt. Then I tugged gently on the leashes, leading my dogs away. The Pit Bull lost interest.

The moment was over. Turning and walking away, it felt for a moment like my knees wanted to buckle, that typical adrenaline spike when you face a moment of fear. But my breath had saved me. I can never actually know if I was in danger or if taking control of my emotions altered what might have happened. That’s the very nature of the unknown. I can only know that I made a choice, that I chose not to give in to emotion and instead to fall back on the mental performance practice I’ve been doing for years. I controlled what I could control. I conquered the emotional hurricane.

We’re all going to have moments like this. Will we take control over how we react to them? Will we draw on our preparation when we face being asked to step up our role at work or when we are provided the chance to step into the heat of competition? Do you make the choice to sit in the eye of the emotional hurricane where you connect with calmness and confidence? Or get swept up by worry, doubt, and fear? The choice is yours to make.

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