A lesson in Mindfulness from Dopey 1

Mindfulness is a word frequently used at the moment.

The idea of Mindfulness originates from Buddhism and was incorporated into therapy in a variety of ways, but one of these was in Dialectic Behaviour Therapy in the early 1990’s.

Nowadays, Mindfulness is used to help with many things, from anxiety, phobias and panic attacks, to trauma, PTSD, anger and other intense emotional reactions. Really, it can be used for anything, but engaging in it to help manage regulate your emotions is definitely worthwhile, as is using it to help increase self awareness and to connect back to yourself.

The idea is to focus entirely on something, because your brain can only really truly do one thing at once. So if you are entirely focused on that one thing, in that moment, then your mind can’t go wandering elsewhere (to the past or the future) and that eases the emotions that are outside of what you are focussing on.

There are lots of different ways of being mindful or using Mindfulness. It could be focussing specifically on an activity you are doing, experiencing and exploring something a specific sensation is experiencing, focusing on what you are feeling inside your body, and other things too. Essentially though, Mindfulness is about bringing you back to the present moment and not focusing on the future (which is where people who feel anxiety are often focussed) or the past (which is where people who have suffered trauma can be focussed). It can help to ease the intensity of those emotions.

Mindfulness is a bit of an art and it can really take some work to learn how to make it work for you and to practise the skills, and people find it useful in varying ways, but it’s always something to consider, in my opinion.

So, how does all that relate to Dopey 1? And who, actually, is Dopey 1?

Dopey 1 is one of my rabbits and today, the day I post this, she is ten years old (that’s right, she was born 25th June 2006).

Little Dopey has been through a lot in her life. Very early on, like many animals, she was taken to a strange place although, thankfully, she wasn’t alone; she came to us, with her sister, Dopey 2.

The pair were completely inseparable and they were nearly impossible to tell apart (which is why they ended up with a joint name). They were the same from their looks, down to their actions, to noises they made, the curious approach they took to life and how they interacted with us. The only slight difference between them was that Dopey 2 was slightly smaller, and she was also slightly grumpier.

Seeing they were so inseparable I bonded a third rabbit in with them (all neutered and spayed, of course), called Cloud. As a three, they were then always together, despite Cloud being a very angry rabbit and one who verged on aggression anytime he felt fear. Bopth Dopeys just accepted him for who he was and managed his aggressive outbursts.

Cloud died after a long respiratory illness, in April 2010, and both Dopeys struggled at first, but seemed to pull themselves to each other and became the inseparable unit they had originally been. I was worried how one would cope if they other died (something they never seemed to worry about) and so bonded another rabbit in; this time called Lightning.

Sadly, Dopey 2 fell victim to the genetic respiratory malformation that her cousin had had (a curse of being a netherland dwarf) and, after a year long battle, we lost her in November 2012. I was so very worried about her other half, Dopey 1, who had never, ever been without her for any length of time, let alone forever. Dopey 1 saw her body and she was quiet for a short while, but then her and Lightning pulled together as a little pair and went back to their happy ways.

Dopey 1 and Lightning are as together as they were then, but now Dopey 1, in her old age, has quite nasty arthritis in her spine, she has dental abscesses, she has a gut condition where her gut just stops working and seizes up (this will eventually, most likely, be terminal). She is on two strong types of pain relief, injected antibiotics and gut stimulants to make her but work better.

And yet, despite all that, she runs around like she is still the baby she was when she came. She still runs and binkies and grooms him and falls out of places and steals food (from me and from Lightning) and really enjoys her food and trashes her area and trashes her litter tray and gets cross at me when I give her meds and loves on me when I give her treats and so many other things.

How is this being mindful? Because she is focussing specifically on that moment only. When she is eating a sneaky banana treat, she isn’t worrying that I’m going to take it away soon, or it’s only a small bit, she just enjoys it. When she struggles to stand up when she has been laying down, she isn’t worrying about how much worse it will get or if she will have to stand the pain for long, just focusses on where she is going. She isn’t looking back and feeling sad that her other half is not here still, she is just enjoying the company that she does have.

Dopey 1 is lucky. In her brain, she does not have the concept of self awareness, and she does not have the ability inside her brain to be thinking about what has happened, and what might come. That means that she doesn’t have to struggle to be mindful or learn to be mindful, but she can live her life in that very present moment.

She doesn’t know that, at 10, and with the conditions she has, she won’t have long left (that’s my knowledge), what she knows is that in this moment she’s eating apple leaves, or going out in the garden, or being groomed by Lightning, or eating this yummy bit of hay. She is able to live Mindfully, and because of that, she is able to live much more happily and without concern, in a totally different way from if she was aware of all the trauma and loss she had suffered or if she had the worries and anxieties about her future that I have.

She shows how being mindful can bring much more quality to our lives. Maybe this is something we should all be trying more.

If you are interested, then it would be worth having a google and seeing what you can find and what works for you. Maybe in time I’ll add some Mindfulness hints and tips here.

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