Fritter, the bunny, was rescued after abandonment. His under-side was completely matted. The vet said that it was because he had been confined in a wet cage. Fritter was a trooper!
When he came to me he still had some matting around his private areas, even though my friends who took him in first had taken great care of him—some of it just had to grow out! I remember wondering about his personal hygiene. He seemed to avoid the mats in his fur, so I wondered if he would ever clean himself “down there.” Over time he cleaned more and more of himself as the matted fur came off. Eventually, he would take great pride in his cleaning and grooming, really enjoying his whole body. I was so happy for him!
When I told the story to an insightful animal-loving pet owner yogi, I remember her compassionately commenting, “Isn’t it something, that animals can have shame.”
I said, “What?” And it wasn’t just because she had spoken softly—my mind was being softly blown. It was also the way she said it. With such knowing and sadness… A world-weary and motherly understanding that seemed to come right from the center of the earth… My bunny had known not only cruelty and neglect, but he had also known shame.
And while I knew the word “shame” at the time (it was a few years ago), I had not a clue of what it really meant—even though I was unknowingly carrying a ton of it. So my bunny and my friend were the ones who gently brought my attention to the concept of shame, and how shame can work unconsciously through our actions to avoid pain whether you are lagomorph (order that includes rabbits) or human.
Having observed my bunny-teacher I might see it like this: Fritter had a delightful demeanor; he was always sweet, and never aggressive. So when he was uncomfortable he would simply enjoy everything else about his life that he could. He didn’t worry his problem. Instead he enjoyed his food and petting and exploring and lots of chewing, chewing, and more chewing! And lo and behold (I remember going in for a very strategic bit of hair removal!) one day there was like the best gift that Fritter found! And from that day onward he took great joy and pride in taking care of his whole body, as well as continuing to enjoy all of his other joys, including his friend, Fawn who came into his life a little later…
So if I look to the tale of my bunny-sattva for wisdom, I think that Fritter would tell me not to worry the things in my life that might be preventing me from fuller joy and pride (like all of those crappy could-have and should-haves). He might say that these things will take care of themselves. In time it could be natural that I will revel more fully, actively engaging all parts of my being, even if I have seen myself (possibly incorrectly) as somewhat limited… He would tell me to do all the things I can do, and to enjoy everything I can. And to tear shit up! (He loved* doing that!)
* My beloved Fritter passed away this past summer.
**Updated article provided by Yogic Muse**