Retreat Yourself

In late June 2014, I wrote a note in my phone of three simple “I am” statements to set the tone for my summer.  Pushing aside the millions of things to get done and ways to make two months off from the day job count, I set these “I am” statements at the core of my desires for that time.  At the heart of all of the “stuff” I had to do and wanted to do that summer, my true intentions were in these “I am” statements.  I typed:

I am

-reading.

-practicing yoga.

-mindful.

I didn’t even know what mindful meant or why I typed it— it just appeared there on the screen.  I am mindful… ok.  Let that sit.

I found a yoga studio near to where we were living.  I signed up for a month unlimited and then another month unlimited.  I took classes 3-5 times per week for the entire summer.  I am practicing yoga…  finally.  For months before that, I was thinking about it.  And I was telling myself that I “should” be practicing yoga.  But I never seemed to quite get around to it.  I let everything else jump the line and take up my precious time.  All it took was setting that clear intention: I am practicing yoga.  Like magic, I was.

I found two teachers whose style and energy matched what I was seeking in my practice and made darn sure to show up at their classes.  I dove all in, as I’m prone to do.  One of those teachers offered free guided meditation after classes, as the schedule allowed.  I stayed.  She shared about her practices, her studies through UMass. Medical School in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and her “real life” applications of these simple-yet-complex practices.  She had something here.  I hung on every word.

A friendship blossomed.  At the time, I hadn’t consciously revisited my note in my phone with my summer intentions, my “I am” statements.  But I was learning about mindfulness, that word I typed without knowing why.  My new mediation coach and friend recommended books that she was reading.  We started to hang out.  We shared this glorious spark of brilliance.  I knew I found a soul sister in Debbie.  Toward the end of August 2014, while rolling up my yoga mat after one of Debbie’s last yoga classes for the summer, I opened the notes in my phone… and there it was: I am mindful.  I manifested a practice, a coach and a friend with three words.  Don’t question the process.  Be open to being guided.  Set the intentions that are in your heart and take the action steps as they unfold.

This past Thursday, I had the honor of sitting at a full-day retreat of over 100 educators led by my soul sister Debbie and her colleague in mindfulness Cory.  They led us through the practices and applications of this life-saving, life-expanding gift called Mindfulness.  They are the real-deal.  I, who often cannot exhale without checking my phone 17 times, did not even check the time from 7:30 am until 4:35 pm.  That’s the magic that Debbie and Cory shared.

We learned about our relationship to stress, how to be with what is here, how to develop our mental fitness… I could go on and on.  I took 17 pages of notes.  But, if I can share only one take-away with you, it is this: replace resistance with curiosity.  Approach your day with an element of awe and wonder.

Debbie, I bow to you.  I am mindful.

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Philomena & Boo

This past week was book-ended with loss for our Rescue group.

Philomena, long-time sanctuary bun and notorious feisty lady, made her journey over the Rainbow Bridge on Tuesday.  I volunteer time every week at our sanctuary and special needs foster home so teeny tiny Philomena and I had a relationship— not a close one, but that was her choice.  Because of medical concerns with her heart, she has never able to be spayed, thus earning her the title of a sanctuary rabbit, one who cannot be adopted out.  No matter my approach, fast or slow, quiet or with a verbal warning, Philomena would box her tiny paws at me, then hop away and hide.  She never allowed me to connect with her and I respected that.  She did have quite the affinity for our volunteer Robert.  Robert could handle her better than anyone else.  She would let Robert pat and cuddle her.

At the end of January, Philomena’s impairments caught up with her and she quickly fell ill.  She got immediate veterinary care but her age (estimated somewhere between 6 and 9 years old) and her physical struggles were just too much for our tiny little fighter to combat.  I’ll miss her bug-eyes and her attitude.  I’ll remember her fondly as an independent lady who liked her space and who made the tiniest “bunny buttons” in the largest quantities!

And then midweek, adoptable boy Boo fell ill.  He recently battled a case of head tilt and infection.  We hoped he was recovered… but the illness came back with vengeance.  He was “rolling,” which could look more like uncontrollable thrashing– scary for the animal and scary to witness.  The outpouring of love from our volunteer team was (as usual) inspiring.  While Boo struggled and his condition worsened from mid to end of the week, our team spent extra time at his foster home, making sure Boo could reach his water and food and ensuring he was safe and comfortable.  Boo crossed the Rainbow Bridge as we crossed into the weekend.  I’m sure Philomena met him there and they binkied off together.

There was a very large and surely very intense abandonment case out in Suffolk county this week and, despite the fact that two other rescue organizations were handling the case, our group received some criticism online for not being actively involved in this situation.  On top of the realities of our limited time and money resources… if those critics only knew the truth of what the week was like for our team…

Boundless love to all those who loved Philomena and Boo.

The Business of Bonding

Alternate title: Lies My Rabbits Told Me

How do you best admit struggle when you’re the leader?  How do you exhale and admit, “It’s getting tough for us over here!” when you’re the one people turn to when the stuff gets tough for them?

Confession: bonding got tough this week, out of seemingly nowhere (but not actually nowhere when I stopped to think about it).  Quick catch-up for those of you who haven’t tuned in before: lived side-by-side for 5 years, moved to a new home one month ago, started official bonding the day we moved, all was going very well.  Then, I guess middle of this past week, the little bits of circling or chasing that would happen occasionally but diffuse quickly and on their own started to pop off into near-fights or actual fights.  And I couldn’t tell anyone, besides the Bunny-daddy of course.  I’m the one who gives bonding advice or at least connects you to the people who can give you the best advice—how could I admit that the relationship-building took a turn for the tough in my own living room?

Drop the ego.  Get it together.  But in the thick of it all, I wasn’t paying attention fully.  I wasn’t using my “toolbox” of mindfulness and personal development that I teach about!  If I was, I would have realized that Tater stopped grooming Peanut, a loving and lengthy ritual that Peanut began to expect at the beginning of and periodically throughout the exercise time/bonding sessions.  Of late, Peanut had even begun to reciprocate the grooming—it was a freakin’ miracle in this house.  Maybe that milestone distracted me.  I can see clearly now that last Tuesday or Wednesday, whenever this mayhem started, that the lack of the grooming ritual was causing the conflicts.  But I wasn’t fully present.  I was coasting on last Sunday’s amazing 14+ hour bonding session.  I was coasting on the Nothing In The World That I Can’t Do mentality that all too often leaves me with blinders on to the indicators of change or of changing needs.  I was getting ready for bestie to visit, I was getting ready for a holiday that I celebrate for tradition, I was still trying to unpack and settle, all while cruising through bonding.

The realization of the root of the issue came when I finally sat with the bunnies and was fully present.  I sat with the intention to sit there, not with the intention to make sure they were ok then throw in laundry, wash dishes, finish Christmas cards, unpack a box, answer Rescue emails, etc., etc., etc… it was ONLY when I sat there with the intention of being there and there only, that I realized the grooming had stopped, thus the course of their relationship-building shifted.  Duh.  But in running the house, one day job, two small businesses, one non-profit organization and a beautiful family group, I let my true presence be absent.  I really thought they were good, that they were bonded!  Look at how they were behaving!  Yes, I had been pouring on the Stress Away when the fights started—now I knew what else I needed to add.

So, this morning, after bestie left, I dripped Peace & Calming into the diffuser, I sprayed myself and the living room with White Angelica, I put Valor II over my heart and some drops of Surrender and Highest Potential in my hands.  Yes, I know, one drop of one oil would have been enough but in typical B-fashion I had to go over the top to ensure success.  Being fully present, I sat with the boys for 30ish minutes this morning.  There were some scuffles, but I get it now.  And when I’m fully present, the sessions may be shorter but they are more purposeful.  I tell my colleagues in business and Rescue and my learners at the day job that my success comes from my laser-sharp focus.  And here I was, not using it, one of my greatest tools.

Lies my rabbits told me—more like lies I tell myself!  I let their progress delude me.  I let it fuel my tendency to take on too much at once.  Now, my options are clear: I am where I am, fully present or I am shut off.  I cannot ensure their progress (or safety, for that matter) while simultaneously working on three other things.  Or one other thing.  See how even my diction reveals the pressure I put on myself… get it together.

I’ve often toyed with idea of having “Be Here Now” tattooed on my wrist.  I think I’ve hesitated because it rocks my Type-A intense achiever personality to admit that I need such a reminder, especially for something that seems so basic.  Also, I need to donate blood again before I get my text tattoo.  But anyway, the lesson here: Bonding is a business.  And just like one of my mentors-in-my-head Bethenny Frankel (love her or hate her, I don’t care!) says, “Everything is your business” and when you treat every task you take on like it’s your business, the care cultivated and the success sustained is remarkable.

Be here now.  Do one thing at a time.  Pay attention on purpose to what’s going on in front of your face and in your heart.  Much love.

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Never Too Far

Help can take myriad forms.  For labeling purposes, help in the Rescue world takes the following forms:

-Catches/Rescues: safely containing and bringing an abandoned rabbit to safety

-Adopting: committing to loving and caring for a rabbit indoors for his/her life span

-Fostering: caring for and loving an adoptable or sanctuary rabbit in your home until a forever home is found

-Networking: spreading the word about rabbit care, adoption and the bleak situation for domestic rabbits on Long Island via social media, in person or any form of communication

-Events: attending and/or helping coordinate education and fundraising events

-Transports: bringing supplies, donations or rabbits from one place to another (often “far” distances)

-Donations: in priority order of their need for our Group at the present time: time, money, supplies

-Bunny Chores: taking that aforementioned donated time and spending it cleaning, feeding and snuggling our foster and sanctuary rabbits

-Collecting Newspaper and Other Supplies: We’ve got to line our litter boxes somehow…

-Emails and Phone Calls: responding to the 100+ contacts we get per month

-Scheduling: adoptions, volunteer shifts, education sessions and events

-Positive Vibes: Energy exists and moves!  Although intangible to some, the positive vibes are amongst the most valuable forms of help you can give!

I think I covered all the major categories of help, but even if I glossed over one or some, you should get the idea of just how much it takes to make this all happen.  We are saving more lives than ever before; just because the team is great at doing so doesn’t mean the workload decreases ever or at all!  For every individual rabbit saved, we need many hours of volunteer time and hundreds or thousands of dollars (yes, per rabbit) in donations depending on length of time in foster care, medical needs, etc.

To those on the outside, it might seem “easy”—just go rescue that rabbit, pop her in a cage and a life is saved.  In truth, an efficient and effective Rescue Group takes way more than that.  We were involved in a rescue this week of two rabbits over the course of 4-5 days.  That rescue took place well over an hour east from the volunteers who were able to coordinate this particular case.  They didn’t balk at the distance or even at the cold weather on the day that Orion (black and white) was rescued.  When Luna (brown and white) was brought to safety, getting her transported west toward our most-frequented rabbit-savvy vets proved a bit more challenging and the ensuing conversation amongst volunteers and supporters inspired me to write this today.

No, I’m not bragging about how much we do.  No, I’m not flinging guilt at those who don’t offer frequent tangible help (PLEASE see the Positive Vibes lines above).  No, I’m not complaining about what this takes—it’s volunteer.  No one “makes” me do this.

When you feel inspired, scan the list above and know you’re never too far to help in some kind of way.  And every second of help, in any form, is treasured and appreciated, always.  Much love.

Make It Count

All this self-imposed pressure to make the days count, to make them epic (and how overused is that word lately? I actually saw a sign, affixed to a telephone pole last week, that read “Epic Garage Sale.” I’m sorry I missed it), to make use of the days off while simultaneously enjoying the freedom and ease of vacation…

One of my B-isms: “Don’t count the days; make the days count.”  I didn’t coin it, but I use it.  Often.  Since I’m not counting days, here are some things I will count for you.

  • Rabbits have 18 toes. Of all of the rabbits with whom I come in contact, I only know one who is missing a digit.
  • I have 3 friends that I’ve had since high school.
  • Domestic rabbits need 35+ hours of exercise time per week.
  • I have 2 friends from college.
  • Tater Tot has chewed 2 holes in our living room couch.
  • Bunny-daddy and I have been together for 6 years.
  • Peanut has bunstructed 2 coffee tables.

Things I can’t count…

  • How many rabbit friends I have.
  • How many pairs of shoes I own.
  • How many bottles of Young Living essential oils I own.
  • How much I love my boys.
  • How many hours I’ve spent answering Rescue emails.
  • How many books I’ve ever read.
  • How much my soul is enriched from Rescue and my Rescue people.

I vow not to put too much pressure on myself, to truly give myself a break during these weeks off from the day job.  However, some things need to get done and I’m using you, my readers, as my accountability.  This week’s goal: clean my desk!  Simple, yet seemingly insurmountable at this time.  Cheer me on.

desk

Now, get off your device (after you like this post, of course) and go make today count!