Meditation with a Twist (or a Chirp!)
Are you feeling frazzled by all the ‘must dos’ of summer? Is the sweltering heat connecting you with your inner sloth where you’re unable to move and don’t want to do a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g very quickly? Summer can be a real mixed bag for people. There’s so much we want to do––all the yang energy encouraging action; mixed together with the desire to chill out, sit back with a good book and be soothed by the yin energies of the so-called ‘lazy days of summer’. Well, do I have just the thing to calm you down or perk you up depending on how summer is treating you.
As natural as watching the sunset and just as soul fulfilling, bird watching is a fun practice that balances the yin and yang energies within you. Yes, you can have it all, and it’s a form of meditation you can practice year round, too. Bird watching can help bring peace back into your life and can give you a sense of connection to something greater than yourself––that is the life of the birds and the powerful presence of the Earth all around you. The birds add an especially vibrant and dynamic layer of presence to an already powerful sentient landscape teaming with life. The seen leads you to the unseen.
The more you choose to sit quietly and observe birds, the more you will discover and this is always a good thing when it comes to Nature.
Hummingbirds jostle like X-Wing fighters believing the 4-flowered feeder, that can meet the hungry needs of multiple birds all at once, has only enough food for one bird, most often but not always, the one with the flashy bright ruby red throat. Just the other day I was delighted to see not one, not two, but…three (very exciting!), hummers perched on the feeder simultaneously enjoying a meal… all female, not a ruby throat in sight. Now, I’ve seen the more mellow-colored females swoop and swerve protecting their source of food, too. It’s not just the males who act like X-Wing fighters defending their treasure trove of sugar water. Female hummers are just as feisty.
I find that every morning, and if I’m home several times a day, I’ll gaze out upon the feeders to see what I can see. It’s become my morning ritual––how I ease into my day. What feathery marvel will delight? Who has returned? Who has brought their fledged youngsters?
The excitement usually starts around 5:30 AM with the hummingbirds showing up first, their hyper wing beats giving away their presence. Then flocks of chickadees arrive, chirping sweetly as they flit about enjoying the suet and grabbing a sunflower seed for themselves. The juncos and chipping sparrows will soon appear feeding off the seed-littered ground below. Occasionally at this early hour the mourning doves will come, and if I’m lucky the cardinals. Then, inevitably, I will hear in the trees the sharp loud call of a woodpecker and know that a harry woodpecker has arrived and is clinging to the side of an oak tree scoping out the suet, calculating the best approach to make.
We have sunflower seed, thistle seed, suet, and of course hummingbird food set out intended to attract and satisfy a variety of birds. The woodpeckers: harrys, downies, and the regal red-bellies, delight in the suet––their large bodies swooping in, clutching the cage of the suet feeder and swinging around like a sun-kissed jubilant youngster, spinning round and around on a well-used tire swing. I can feel the exhilaration coursing through my veins every time I see it!
Then you have the finches. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the gold finches or house finches, they both come to stay––they’re grazers, perched on the sunflower seed feeder sometimes for 30 minutes at a time. While watching these persistent diners, stillness settles over me as my focus shifts and takes on the same mellow cadence of these beautiful birds. Ahh, nourishing yin energy!
The chickadees, nuthatches and titmice are patient at first, but soon find that if they want to get any seed at all they must, with a burst of yang energy, fly down, push a gorging finch aside and grab an oily morsel for themselves. As those of you who enjoy watching the birds will know, these quick little visitors prefer dining alone and preferably on a branch sturdy enough to take a pounding, or pecking.
All that I’m sharing with you here can be described as a form of mindfulness meditation and is a fabulous way to get your daily dose of vitamin E – vitamin ‘E’ for Earth, that is. The benefits of bird watching are cumulative because you get to know individual birds and become knowledgable of the subtle differences in behavior and plumage between species and ages that change over time. And being focused in this relaxed way allows the magic presence of the moment and the place where you are to sink into you and be absorbed by, not only your spirit, but also your cells, especially your brain and nerve cells.
Bird watching sharpens your intuition and your body’s subtle realms ‘antennae’ are strengthened as well.
After watching the birds in this passively engaged way (yin and yang equally expressed), I feel relaxed, yet energized and inspired, heartened to know the land more intimately. This type of experience only grows and grows, drawing you closer to the heart of a place… and the birds lead you there!
Usually, there’s a lull in the feeding during the hottest times of day, but not always. I’m sensitive to how the drought conditions here in Maine this summer are affecting the animals and birds and have a dish of water set out in the shade for them that gets freshened up every morning. Squirrels and chipmunks come to enjoy a drink as much as the birds do. Everyone gets along for the most part, despite the jostling, shoving and chasing. It’s a place of healthy diversity, and this brings me much peace, joy and fulfillment knowing that I can do my part.
The web of life is alive and well here. We humans can learn a lot by observing the subtle dynamics and welcoming acceptance of our bird and animal neighbors. All we have to do is stop what we’re doing long enough to notice.
Prioritizing nature matters. So much beauty, harmony, joy, inspiration, connection, and humility unfolds in our lives when we do.
Yes, I can sit on a pillow in lotus position or enjoy a lovely moment of shavasana if I wish, but to me bird watching has always brought me the inner peace and enrichment of mind that my soul is nourished by. I highly recommend it. What feathered friends do you see outside your window?
Learn more about bird watching and how to responsibly care for your feathered friends by visiting www.audubon.org.