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A prairie rabbit shows me the Zen way of life


One part of Eastern thought that intrigues me is the Zen  concept of intentionally living in the moment and experiencing that moment fully. I suppose that is a  major reason  why I enjoy the out of doors so much.  It’s hard to hike, camp, bird watch, fish, or hunt if you aren’t fully aware of your surroundings and the relationships of those elements with one another. Not long ago, I spotted a Zen rabbit on one of my walks, and it gave me much to consider.

The dogs and I were trekking around our mile path when I first spotted a mottled gray/brown bunny frozen in place only a few feet away.  The noseless yellow dog had already passed the little guy, and the goofy red dog had another mission.  She had scented something in the cedar windbreak and off she dashed. 

Like the bunny, I too froze, and became totally aware of that moment.  In suspended animation, I stood there watching that rooted little body as it intentionally remained perfectly still.  I could feel dry, curly strands of buffalo grass settling beneath my feet, each ray of sun soaking into my pores, and the faint ruffling of a south breeze tickling my skin. I knew exactly where each dog ran, using my senses of sight and hearing.

I suspect the bright eyes of that bunny did more than note a human standing nearby. It, too, knew both dogs’ locations, my position, and probably that of anything overhead since we have a number of hungry hawks hovering about at any given moment. 

Despite that rabbit’s thoughts or perceptions, it appeared motionless.  I didn’t note an inhalation or a blink of an eye.  It was like a statue you might find at the local garden shop.

However, looks deceive.  Every fiber of its being was wired to respond to three interlopers surrounding it. Like Peter caught in Farmer Macgregor’s garden, that bunny had a plan.  Had any one of us threatened it by moving toward it, Mr. Cottontail would have bounded away in a flash, leaving us to wonder whether we had seen a rabbit after all.

I think about living in such a manner—a manner that encourages me to exist fully aware of every little detail of life—and I think of all I miss when I worry about events that have passed or haven’t yet taken place. Choosing to live in such an aware state allows a person to know each little sound, scent, and movement in that moment, how light and shadow balance or cancel one another, how minute air currents move softly over skin and hair.

Life becomes art when lives with awareness. I’d wish every human many such moments.