Closer To Buddha…Sort Of

This is as close as I've ever gotten to Buddha.
This is as close as I’ve ever gotten to Buddha.

Other bunnies are probably not trying to make me suffer. I choose to react compassionately because they also suffer.

Since starting my journey with the Bunny Buddhism book early last week, I’ve read and reread the book several times. Some of the bunny wisdom is immediately accessible and applicable. Some requires deeper reflection for absorption. And then there are the quotes that vex me because I understand what they’re asking for and I know they are going to require some additional effort on my part. Today’s quote is one I have been working on for quite a while because I find opportunities everywhere. Every time another person’s actions negatively affect me, I have a choice: take it personally or realize that this is probably not about me and react compassionately.

This morning I was driving home after dropping the boys at school when a guy in an older model, full-size Chevy pick up came barreling up in my rear view mirror. I was doing the speed limit in the right lane of a three-lane, city street, and he was coming up fast on the car in the center lane. I knew he was going to try to squeeze in front of me to pass the two cars driving side by side in the other two lanes. I thought about speeding up and blocking him in, just because sometimes it’s fun to do that to obnoxious jerks even though it’s not very zen, but I decided that would not be the safest choice. So I let him squeeze between my car and the center car so I could be rid of him. I watched him weave in and out of traffic, cutting other people off left and right, for at least a half a mile up the road until he at last turned into a mall parking lot. The whole time, I tried to be a good bunny. I tried to be compassionate. I tried to envision that perhaps he was late for an important job interview or was running out to get his very pregnant, very cranky, donut-craving wife some breakfast. Then I decided that I should have compassion for him because he is clearly missing the big picture. He doesn’t understand that he’s not the center of the universe, and it’s a burden to live life that way, devoid of inner peace. Yes. I actually had that thought. I know, right? I felt it was pretty evolved of me too.

I could not get that guy out of my head all morning. I kept wondering what his burden was. What was it that made him that impatient, aggressive, and obviously not at peace? What was he suffering from? Finally after recreating the scene this morning in my analytical brain, in a not very bunny way, I decided he was merely suffering from being an asshole. That could be the true depth of his problem. Many people behave nastily because they are carrying a bigger burden than they can bear…the unexpected death of a loved one, the loss of a job, depression, loneliness, poverty. Then there are those people who simply are their own problem. Somehow I’m certain that guy in the truck is the same guy who would yell at the little old lady in the express lane at the grocery store because she was one item over the limit. He’s the same guy who would hog both arm rests on his airline seat. The same one who would repeatedly drop the F-bomb in front of a bunch of Cub Scouts at a hockey game. He’s that guy. And when I look at the quote again (and excuse me for getting technical here) it asked me only to react compassionately, which I did by letting him cut me off so he could win whatever Indy 500 race he was imagining in his little pea brain head. The quote didn’t say I had to like him, so there’s no moral obligation there, right?

Yes. I know. Not very zen. I told you I have been working on this quote for a while. Apparently I still have a way to go before I can say I nailed it. While I’m working on it, though, I suspect Buddha would suggest I find a quote about forgiveness and letting go. Apparently I can’t drive the road to inner peace aggressively…you know, the way that guy was driving this morning.

 

The Life I Never Meant To Live

This is what it's all about.
This is what it’s all about.

At a loss as to what to write about this evening, I decided to let chance select my topic. I flipped to a random tab in my Bunny Buddhism book and selected the first quote I saw.

The wise bunny accepts life for what it is, not for what it is expected to be.

Man…I so could have used this quote about eight years ago when I was lost and questioning how I had gotten so far off track. Off track of what? Well, at that time in my life, I actually believed there was a track I was supposed to be on. That track had involved having a great career and earning enough money to have someone reliable and decent care for my children and clean my home. That was my plan to have it all. I smile at that thought now. It really didn’t seem like such an unrealistic expectation for myself. I’m smart, well-educated, and have been successful in every paying job I’ve ever had. No reason why that shouldn’t have panned out for me. No reason except that it wasn’t my path. My path involved two darling little boys who needed some extra help, help I felt only I could give them. So I quit my job to stay home with them and everything changed. I changed. Being a stay-at-home parent was far more difficult than I imagined it would be. For a few years, I felt trapped, disillusioned, and resentful. I was an unhappy bunny.

Slowly and with time I learned that my path has been uniquely mine and completely perfect, despite my original objections. I managed to release my earlier expectations for my life and to make peace with what is. Honestly I’ve more than made peace with my present. I’m grateful that things worked out the way they did. As difficult as it was at times to be with my boys day in and day out, to give up my financial independence and earning potential, it was absolutely, 100% the best thing for our family. Because of this revised path, I have learned so much about myself, my sons, and life. I’ve had time for self-expression and freedom to explore new things. I feel fortunate to have had this time to grow.

I’d like to say that I no longer have any expectations, but that is not entirely true. Old habits die hard. But I am a much wiser bunny now. I know that what I think is the best thing and what actually is the best thing may not be the same thing. I’m more flexible and open to letting things unfold without my having a stranglehold on the itinerary. In yoga class, the instructors often ask us to soften into a pose rather than force our way into it. I’ve found that analogy works in my life too. And life is much better as a soft, fluffy bunny.

Look Out, Nemo! Dory’s Got A Twin Sister!

It's too bad my inner zen is not quite ready to be my outer zen.
It’s too bad my inner zen is not quite ready to be my outer zen. It’s also too bad I’m not quite flexible enough for lotus pose just yet.

In moments when I cannot access my inner bunniness, it is enough to know it is still there somewhere.

I am wiped out. A week after I started writing again every day, I’m officially down from an average of 8 hours of sleep per night to 6. You see, I am a night writer (not at all related to Night Rider) and a morning person. I often am up past midnight writing, but I have a six a.m. wake up call. Now if I miss two hours of sleep on one night, it’s not a big deal. But, cumulatively speaking, sleep-deprivation damage on me is plain ugly. Today it became glaringly obvious that I am not functioning on all my cylinders.

Case in point…while scrolling through Facebook on my iPhone, I saw a recipe a friend had posted that I wanted to try. I thought about sharing her link on my own wall so I could find it later, but I try to avoid that type of visual noise in my personal space. So I copied the web address for the recipe and pasted it into an email to myself. Later I’ll be able to open the link, bookmark it, and then I will always know where the recipe for Buffalo Cauliflower Bites resides. So I composed the email and hit send. I put the whole process out of my mind and moved on. Not two seconds later, I heard the telltale ping of a message hitting my Inbox. I got an email! I thought to myself, like a squirrel giddy over the discovery of a new nut. I opened my mail, anxious to see who was checking in with me. Guess what? It was me. Of course it was me. It was the message I had just sent to myself. I shook my head and rolled my eyes. I am losing my mind. Talk about short-term memory loss. I know I will be turning 46 soon, but I think that’s too young for these pervasive senior moments.

I hate it when I do brainless things. I pride myself on being an intelligent, capable, and self-aware person. As important as these little reminders of my humanity are to my humility, I’m growing tired of their frequency. So tonight I am composing this short post so that I can get to sleep earlier and hopefully return to my mostly full-brain self tomorrow. On my trek toward zen, I am learning to be more accepting of my shortcomings. It is a process, and I know that recognizing, acknowledging, and then being able to let go without judgment are all crucial components of my personal growth. I am working on it. I swear I am. But, holy mindless mayhem, Batman! I hope my brain checks back in soon. I miss it. Inner bunniness…if you’re listening…send me a reminder that you’re still out there, please. An email on my iPhone might help. 😉

Like Sands Through the Hour Glass…

Our water boy
Our water boy

Oh, boys. Today, Joe had a friend come over to hang out. Everything was going well until they decided to take a hockey stick and hit some home runs using Luke’s Lego models as the ball. The basement survived these antics, but of course the models did not. Luke, who was already feeling excluded and lonely, added furious to his list of emotions. We could not blame him. Demolishing Lego models, while impressive to friends, is not the way to keep peace with your younger brother. Now, we know that 1) Joe was just showing off for a friend and 2) his impulse control is not the best to begin with, but this was not the first time Joe has destroyed some of Luke’s Lego creations. He’s been punished for this infraction in the past. It hasn’t made an impression.

We decided to hold a family meeting over dinner to discuss what to do with the repeat offender. We offered Joe the opportunity to explain himself and argue his case. Then we asked Luke to rate his level of sadness about the loss of the models. With both boys still at the table, Steve and I began discussing punishments. Ultimately we decided that Joe would be allowed to rebuild the models to Luke’s satisfaction to lessen the duration of the punishment, which we determined was a week without his nightly baths.

Yes. It’s odd that our nearly 13-year-old son takes nightly baths in addition to his morning showers. As high as our water bills can be, it’s hard to complain that our son likes to be too clean because I’ve had the opportunity to catch of whiff of some other teenage boys and they smell. Badly. I write off Joe’s water obsession because he’s a Gemini with a Pisces ascendant and a Pisces moon, so water is his primary element. Joe says he’s water obsessed because he’s Sharkboy, and during the day he is just a fish out of water. We knew this would be a rough punishment, but we were determined to make it stick.

When we got home, Joe went to work rebuilding the models. He was able to fix one quite easily. The other one he recreated (albeit with modifications) to earn Luke’s stamp of approval. Joe came before the parole board, and we agreed to lessen his sentence to a meager two nights on Luke’s recommendation. (Luke, god bless his tender heart, hates to see Joe suffer.) The reduced sentence, which teetered on the edge of being way too lenient by our standards, did not appease Joe in the least. Nope. When he realized he still would not get his bath tonight, he perpetrated a sizable meltdown in protest. He wheedled. He argued. He cried. He wrote notes of apology. He wandered in and out of our room muttering curses until we were ready to tell him that although he couldn’t have a bath we wished he would go soak his head. Because we felt too generous already in the sizable reduction in his sentence, though, we held steadfast and refused to cave. He could live with two days’ punishment.

Joe’s meltdown continued for about 30 minutes. Finally I pulled out the Bunny Buddhism book and shared this doozy with him when he again wandered into our room in protest:

The wise bunny knows life is full of suffering and chooses not to create more.

He was not impressed with my bunny wisdom. Joe is the King of Drama. When he was younger and in trouble for a transgression, he would tell us that he wanted to beat himself as punishment. I started to wonder if he had been a member of Los Hermanos Penitentes in a former life and that was why he was advocating self-flagellation. It’s hard to know sometimes if his histrionics are the genuine result of his ADHD-enhanced lack of control or an elaborate ruse meant to elicit guilt. He is capable of working both ways.

I’m not sure why Joe insists on ratcheting his initial Level 3 DEFCON misery to DEFCON Level 1, but I keep hoping that he will learn what the wise bunnies know…that inventing additional suffering is ill-advised. So far that lesson has not kicked in, but I hold out hope. Hopefully he chooses to stop making unpleasant situations into unbearable ones. Hopefully he learns to channel his energy into reducing the drama in his life rather than creating more. If not, I guess there’s always a future on Days of Our Lives. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that. I’ve seen enough of Stefano and Marlena.

Deep Thoughts on the Nature of Carrots

Deep bunny thoughts, anyone?
Deep bunny thoughts, anyone?

The first quote my sister messaged me from Bunny Buddhism was this one about carrots.

The carrot may be eaten, but it is never completely gone.

Now, in terms of Buddhism-themed quotes, this one was admittedly not one that grabbed my attention immediately. It’s a bit abstract and not as easily applicable to my life as some of the others, so it was not one of the ones I marked. Still…as a first impression it was good enough. I knew I would buy the book because, holy cow, it’s bunny Buddhism. What could possibly be cuter than that? Penguins wearing knit sweaters? Babies and puppies napping together? The only thing I had previously experienced that was nearly that darling was the lawyer our son Luke told us he’d hired, Harry Flufferpants, Esq. And you have to admit that a teacup Pomeranian wearing a black, satin top hat and monocle and sporting a distinguished handlebar mustache comes pretty dang close to deep thoughts about bunniness.

Still…this particular bunny quote threw me, perhaps because I’m nothing if not pragmatic and I could not see the immediate wisdom here. I mean, let’s face it. If you consume a carrot, it is gone. Gone into the depths of your acid-machine stomach where it will in fact cease to exist in its current state. It will emerge later,  but it’s not going to be recognizable and you’re not going to want to stop to reflect on it. Or at least I hope you’re not.

Harry Flufferpants, Esq.
Harry Flufferpants, Esq.

So what exactly is the meaning of this quote? Although I’ve been sitting and reflecting on it for a while now, I am stymied. When I apply it to a life experience, like travel, I can make some sense of it. You take a trip and it ends, but the memory of that trip is never gone. You could also apply it to a person. You know a person and they leave you, but they’re never completely gone from your mind. Is that the lens through which you need to examine this widom? Perhaps the author was thinking of my husband who has an incredible memory for meals in obscure restaurants decades ago in foreign countries and would never forget an eaten carrot (even if he can’t seem to remember that I asked him to pick up carrots at the grocery store)? I’m drawing a blank on this one, and it’s vexing me. I never studied philosophy or religion, so I have nothing to go on. And I really hate feeling obtuse.

As I was searching for an answer to this mental puzzle, though, I found this quote that might help.

The wise bunny becomes wise by asking what he does not know.

So, I am asking. Can you help me become wise?

 

 

 

Zen and the Art of Bunniness

In the Galapagos, Luke and a Nazca booby enter into each other's inherent bunniness.
In the Galapagos, Luke and a Nazca booby take a moment to appreciate each others’ unique and meaningful existence.

Like many people these days, I practice yoga. My journey began a little over four years ago and, even in the times that I don’t practice regularly, I find it is always with me. Yoga is a hard thing to explain to those who haven’t yet experienced it. Before I practiced, people who knew me well would tell me that I needed it. I resented that statement, but mostly I resembled it. I moved from one thing to the next without stopping to be present in my own life. I didn’t know how to sit in stillness or look around in awareness. A hamster on a perpetual wheel, I rarely paused to notice or enjoy anything. I was too busy looking ahead to see the little moments slipping by in my peripheral vision.

In vinyasa yoga, you flow through the different postures syncing one breath to one movement in a moving meditation. You breathe in to settle into one pose and breathe out to transition into another, consciously aware of each inhalation and exhalation. So when I found this quote in my Bunny Buddhism book, I knew exactly what it was for. It is a mantra for meditation.

Breathing in, I know I am a bunny. Breathing out, I know a bunny is all I have to be.

In my late thirties, I was somewhat depressed. Not in that can’t-get-out-of-bed-and-need-Zoloft way, but in the way that I was unhappy without being awake enough to realize it. I had young children who had boundless energy and myriad personal struggles and I didn’t have a clue how to help them settle and grow. I was continually exhausted, surviving on caffeine and mindless, reality television. I was stalled out. When my early forties hit, midlife began urging me to shake off my slump and make something out of my life. This was both a good thing (because I began to wake up and seek out life-affirming events, which made me buck up a little) and a bad thing (because in seeking out new experiences I managed to remain too busy to truly enjoy anything).

That was when yoga found me. I began to understand that I didn’t have to become anything to prove anything. Through yoga, I began accepting that there are things that I am good at and things that I will never be good at. It doesn’t matter. It’s part of the uniqueness that is me, and it is enough. That thought continues to blow my mind. I am enough. Period. If I finish the book I’ve been writing in my head for years, great. If not, that’s fine too. I’m exactly where I need to be, being the person I am becoming. At the end of my life, a full and well-rounded curriculum vitae will say everything about what I accomplished but nothing about who I was because we are not the sum total of what we do. Good thing too because on most days what I do is laundry.

Breathing in. I know I am a bunny. Breathing out. I know a bunny is all I have to be.

Can you let go of what you think you need to do to be important and accept that you already are?

 

The Tale of Two Bunnies

These two bunnies may resemble each other but they are unique in their bunniness.
These two bunnies may resemble each other in form, but at the end of the day they are unique in their bunniness.

I have two sons. Although there are some similarities between them, mothering these two boys forced me to acknowledge the universal parenting truth. Parenting is not a case of nurture versus nature, but rather a case of how you choose to nurture your child’s nature. Now the fact that I know this to be true should in no way imply that I understand how one actually achieves this goal of parenting differently in the best interest of each child’s personal growth. I struggle with this daily because, like most parents, I would like to believe that in a nod to fairness I love my sons in the same way and treat them equally. It’s just not true on a day-to-day basis. They’re different people. They have different strengths and weaknesses and present unique challenges and lessons to me as their mother. They are both easier to raise than their brother in some ways and more difficult to raise in others. It is what it is.

My oldest son, Joe, has moderate ADHD. What that means for him is that he is impetuous, has a hard time focusing on anything, and even though he often knows the “right” way to do something he usually forgets to do it. As a parent trying to teach him to function in the world, his struggle with working memory has been a plague upon us both. When he was very young, his lack of follow through was something I did not think much about. I wrote it off saying he hadn’t yet reached that developmental milestone. But by the time he was six and his four year old brother began following through on things and completing multi-step directions where his older brother could not, I knew something was amiss. Still not aware that his brain struggled with working memory and processing speed, which was why he could listen to me rattle off a short list of things to do and then not remember to do them, I wrote it off as his personality. Joe was forgetful. It was his nature. It was my job as parent to correct this error in his way of doing things. I hounded him. I repeated things until I was hoarse. I followed him around, riding rough-shod over every single thing I asked him to do to make sure he would do it. About this time in my parenting journey, I really could have used today’s Bunny Buddhism quote:

I cannot impose self-discipline upon other bunnies.

I cannot force Joe to behave the way I behave because he is not me and he never will be. His brain does not work as mine does. It is as unique and interesting as he is. And no amount of badgering, belittling, or begrudging will make him act in the disciplined way I wish he would (if only for the sake of his own well-being and sanity). Even if I nurture him by providing charts and introducing him to life hacks to work around his memory issues, this is his dragon to slay. He will take from me what his mind is willing to accept and use and in time he will find his own way through trial and error, peaks and pitfalls. Likewise, I will never be able to stop his brother Luke from chewing on his shirts and leaving holes as if a goat has been wearing them. I don’t understand why he does it, but I know I can’t make him self-disciplined enough to cease and desist. It’s just not happening.

Perhaps someday Joe will remember to hang up his towel and put his clothes in the hamper. Perhaps not. He is his own bunny. He needs to find his own way in his bunniness. I can nurture his nature, but I can’t affect the outcome. And to try to do this only damages the relationship we have. I have made my own bunny peace with Joe’s memory issues. Oh. I still make him come back upstairs to hang up the towel he left on my bathroom floor because, well…I’m not his slave. But I no longer think it is my duty to turn him into the towel-hanging kid his brother is. He’s a different bunny than his brother who chews shirts who, in turn, is a different bunny than me (the one whose mother tried unsuccessfully to stop her from biting her nails).

My journey to zen is aided daily by my children who are teaching me more than I will ever be able to teach them.

Beginning Bunny Buddhism

I don't patronize bunny rabbits.
I don’t patronize bunny rabbits.

Late last week, my sister introduced me to a book I knew was a game changer. The minute I saw it I knew I needed a copy for myself because it fits right in there with two things that appeal to me…working towards my zen and coveting fuzzy things. (Yes. I know to be truly zen I would have to not covet things, even soft, fuzzy things, but this is why I said I am working towards my zen. I am not there yet, people.) The book is Bunny Buddhism by Krista Lester. It is an adorable tome filled with wisdom about life and illustrations of darling bunnies on the path to bunniness. As soon as I got the name of the book, I was one-clicking my way through Amazon to get it here as fast as humanly possible. (Yes. I know instant gratification also goes against my path to zen, but I can only make this journey one step at a time.) Today the book arrived, and I devoured 186 pages of bunny thoughtfulness, carefully marking statements that resonated with me. Fifty some Post-It tabs later, I realized I have a lot more travel ahead on the road to zen than I originally thought.

Last week, a fellow blogger (and all around kind gal) commented that she missed my blog postings. She told me she was planning to write every day in April. I was tempted to join her on her journey, but ultimately decided that after all this time off I’d gotten too lazy to commit to a whole month. That seemed like an awful lot of work. Then Bunny Buddhism arrived in my mailbox, and with it came my inspiration. And so for the next couple weeks, or until I am plumb bored with cute, fuzzy things or deep, life-changing wisdom, I am going to pick a thought from the book and blog a bit about it.

Today’s Bunny Buddhism mediation is this:

Even a reliable bunny misses a hop sometimes; then the important thing becomes simply to return to hopping.

That is what I am doing right now. I am returning to hopping by blogging again. Once I was a reliable writer, composing something every day for a full year, but I lost my way. I decided other things in my life were more pressing. I reasoned that because writing is not a paying gig for me, I had best focus on my primary job as wildlife manager (aka “mom to two sons”). I thought maybe all the time off blogging would give me more time to focus on writing a book. It didn’t. I found other ways to occupy my time when I put writing on the back burner. I rewatched all the seasons and every single episode of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and LOST. I read way too many articles about our food system that scared the bejeezus out of me. I spent appalling amounts of time on Facebook. And through it all, the only thing I learned is that I am a first-class escape artist. But at the end of the day, no matter what I do or don’t do, the one thing I can’t avoid is the knowledge that I am a writer. I may not be a world-class writer or a published writer or even (gasp) a working writer, but I am a writer. It is what I do. Writing is as much a part of me as my blue-hazel eyes, my constellations of moles, and my stubby fingernails. Denying it doesn’t make it less true. It only takes me further away from my true self.

My writing is not unlike my path to zen. I have a great deal to learn and a lot of room to grow. But I can’t make any progress by freaking out and freezing up when I miss a blog. Life will continue whether I write or not, but every day I skip writing I miss an opportunity to be my most authentic, wonderful, flawed, and yet-somehow-still-perfect self. And so I begin again. They say a journey of a thousand hops begins with a single hop, right?