Monday, June 27, 2011

Dumb Bunny?

I have heard the expression “Dumb Bunny” used for years. Our pet rabbit does not appreciate this term. Tinkles is a sensitive creature and a tad grouchy. I don’t want to upset him so I try not to use the “dumb bunny” idiom. In fact, our pet is not only a smart little hopper, he was a catalyst for an enlightening experience.

We recently went on a combination vacation and book tour. Tinkles came along for the ride. He has a shelf in the back of the camper which houses his bunny cage. He has a traveling bin in the front of the truck cab as well. While my spouse, CB and I admired the rolling landscape, Tinkles was trolling for bites of moist, green grass.

We live in sunny Arizona so a mouthful of unfertilized, pesticide-free grass is not easily available. Tinkles has to settle for hay, grain and the occasional carrot or peanut. However, while we were on the road – camping or in a hotel – the Northern California Coast provided grass galore. CB created a makeshift pen for Tinkles from a small laundry basket. CB cut a dinner plate-sized hole in the bottom of the pen so we can place it on the grass and Tinkles can eat grass to his little heart’s content.

During our road trip our "fur baby" was in bunny heaven. Unfortunately, our vacation came to an end. Returning to Arizona was a bit of a culture shock. The desert climate resembled Dante’s inferno more than a lagomorph’s verdant paradise. Tinkles’ daily servings of delicious, moist and tasty grass reverted back to a handful of dried hay. Upon reflection, I think the expression “What the hay!” came from an unsatisfied rabbit. Of course it could have been Mr. Ed. But I digress. Anyway, when we returned home, Tinkles turned his nose up at his Arizona meals. He begrudgingly ate his grain, but he ignored his hay. He had been a happy camper, but he was not a happy bunny.

For about two weeks Tinkles refused to eat his hay. I did not want him to get constipated so I did not increase his grain. He complained by tossing his little dish around. He also refused to be held for longer than a minute. He remembered better times (and meals) and he was going to hold out until the green grass returned.

This probably sounds like the amusing behavior of a silly rabbit. However, how many times have we done something similar? We suffer a setback and refuse to allow joyful moments to penetrate our hearts and minds. Or we put a stipulation on our happiness such as: “I will be happy when I get a better job.” “I’ll be happy when I’m in a relationship.” We hold our personal joy hostage to these possible happier outcomes that may or may not happen in the future. It’s like Tinkles holding out for greener pastures.

To make matters worse, many of us disregard the blessings we encounter every day. Instead we chose to replay our miserable stories from the past. It’s as if our brain is a DVD player and we keep playing the snippets from the saddest moments of our lives. And we don’t just play this melodrama once. We play it over and over again.

This practice is a lot more masochistic than we may realize. Kebba Buckley Button’s new book, Peace Within, quotes research from a medical conference in 1995 that stated that if a person holds onto a negative thought for five minutes, the parasympathetic nervous system is adversely affected in eight factors for six hours!

In our book Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, my friend and co-author Jacqueline and I wrote about several examples of living optimistically, as well as providing tips on how to erase negativity and enjoy a happier life. A couple of simple suggestions include reciting positive affirmations every day and showing ongoing appreciation for the many positive things we enjoy.

For instance, we take breathing for granted. However, if you were drowning, suffering an asthma attack or choking, your next breath would be more important than anything else in your life. When that next breath finally filled your lungs, wouldn't you be be ecstatic?

Therefore, to keep us on the happy track, I suggest we constantly remind ourselves of what we are grateful for. One of my favorite unattributed quotes is: “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” The more time we spend time showing gratitude the less likely we will have to replay the sad songs of our past.

Erasing or reducing negativity is not easy. However, it can be done. The important thing is to take the first step. Of course I hope it will start with reading our book, but ANY effort is a step in the right direction. And if you enjoy the book, don’t keep it to yourself. Pass it on and encourage others to read it. Also, please contact your local library and ask them to carry the book so those who do not have $12.99 to spare, can read it for free.

We all want to be happy, but often we forget our way. Whether we are holding on to past hurts and ignoring the joys that are present today, or remembering better times and refusing to move forward is not the road to happiness. It is more like a freeway to frustration.

Even our pet bunny knows how silly it is to stay immersed in this futile behavior. A few days ago Tinkles starting eating his alfalfa again. He may prefer fresh grass, but when he realized his surliness was not going to improve his diet, he gave up and ate what I gave him.

So why not take a lesson from Tinkles and forget about the past and enjoy what there is to enjoy right now? With apologies to Bobby McFerrin “Don’t worry. Be hoppy/happy.”

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