The Rabbit and the Zen Student

She is small, opinionated and righteous. One toe over the line and you’ll not see her until she is good and damn ready.

Her sense of propriety is pious and inflexible. She is not particularly affectionate and does not care how that makes anyone feel. She belongs to her and her soul is unconquerable.

She’s met others who have had the thought that she could be someone’s pet–but that’s not now nor ever going to be in her future.

Melanie is the most unapologetic and unbending sort you’ll meet. She is emotionally impeccable. She has absolutely no time for anything not entirely authentic. Melanie is a 2.5 pound min-rex rabbit and she is, according to the literature about most folks of her same breeding, and I quote, “bad ass.”

Being tiny, silky, black and cute as hell is of zero concern to her. She doesn’t bother with outward appearances.

Melanie has taken every ounce of Zen practice within me and challenged it. She eats shoes, furniture and base boards. If she is invited into my bedroom she will sit primly at the end of my bed and just when I’m feeling like we’re friends she’ll excuse herself and use my closet as a litter box.

Melanie gives “zero fucks,” as people say these days to describe an independent anti hero.

I wrote to behaviorists and tried to take her back to her former home–but alas no relief. Until in a full bodied sulk I said, “I am so tired of failing.” That’s when it came to me, “So don’t!” I dug deeper, read more, observed more and realized my implicit bias toward those who walk on paws and live with me. I consider them “pets”. I took this to mean they are supposed to want to please me, be delighted to see me every time I come home and be well, emotionally needy.

Rabbits are not in this category.

Rabbits are fierce, strongly opinionated and most certainly have a protocol and little patience for those who can’t “read the room” to figure it out.

I appreciate her strength and I admire it now that I’ve taken the time to stop reacting and start observing.

So now I am done trying to make her a dog or me a “pet owner.” Like most non human animals, her wisdom is superior. I’d rather be friends with a complicated and mysterious creature than “own a pet” any day of the week.

I’d also prefer to learn something from my relationships and she is an excellent teacher of patience, slowing down, finding stillness and being mindful in action. She is, in short, a Zen Master. In fact, all dressed in black with some powerful and careful kicks she may as well be a ninja too.

So I find if I provide her space and respect, she’ll come over and see me. Often she likes to just relax spread out on the living room rug while I meditate or read or write. So we have our odd little Sangha and we’re working through our issues. Wait–take that back–I’m working through my issues. Mel has no issues. She’s a rabbit being a rabbit.

I have gated the living room to preserve what’s left of my couch and she’s not spending time in my room because a closet can handle only so much. But I’m also buying her favorite greens like a dutiful friend and boxes have become Melanie toys rather than receptacles. But all relationships take work and creativity, right?

Trust me, I’ve had more than one friend suggest I “get rid of her.” But I don’t think life can be so simple. Sometimes lovers will disappoint, children will forget holidays,parents will fail to be available and friends will be caught up in their own lives. Sometimes our bodies will fall apart and our minds will get caught in some unhealthy or forgetful loop but this is all part of it. If we give up on one thing–more things are sure to follow.

If Zen has taught anything by its stoic practice, it is that the small things are large and the things we think are important are often not even the point. A couch or shoe is nothing in comparison to the patience and caring love takes.




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