Get in the habit of listening to birds.
To be honest with you I didn’t think much about birds for most of my growing up years. Sure, they must have been flying and twittering and nesting and squawking all around my suburban NJ home but I admit I haven’t got a clue what birds were most prominent and what they sounded like. On family drives and hikes my Mom would point out a bird and say something like, “Look at that beautiful bird!” and being the pre-teen or teen that I was I’d look over and see something fleeting away across the wood and shrug.
At some later date in my early adulthood I developed a fear of birds. It probably stemmed from being dive-bombed by Catbirds along the walkways at the University of Maryland. Every spring in the news you still hear stories about these birds diving passers-by in parks as they try to defend their nests. To me it was scary and ludicrous – what the heck would I want with their nest anyway?
That goes to show you how very disconnected I was with Mother Nature and her creatures! I’d be walking to work in the City from the metro and be scampering and flailing my hands as I tried to avoid birds! I can even remember my friends sending me a postcard from St. Mark’s Square – you know, where all those birds famously gather outside the fountain? They figured I’d never venture to Italy given the sheer enormity of the bird population there and they said so on the postcard.
So what happened?
I started a pet-care company. Eventually a new client called and they had a bird. A big bird. Her name was Gwen and she was the most gorgeous creature I’d ever met. She’s an Umbrella Cockatoo. That’s a pretty big bird and I figured I’d have to learn to understand and accept her beauty or I’d not live up to my standards of pet care. The clients were wonderful people who introduced me to Gwen with care and compassion and also helped me learn the best ways to care for her in their absence. Over time Gwen and I became fast friends.
I was fascinated by her “like human” personality and her desire to cuddle and be stroked like a puppy. In most cases I felt she was simply waiting for me to catch up and figure out what to do next in terms of our time together. I also enjoyed watching her as she observed the other birds and critters out the back window. She’d get excited when she heard birds calling to each other at dinner time and she’d get visibly upset when a hawk was circling over head – as though she was trying to warn the other birds out back to get out of the way.
So my journey began into the multi-faceted world of birds. I’ve read much about how different cultures throughout millennia have looked to birds as augers of events both horrific and grand, I’ve learned how different species represent different sides to our own human personality and I’ve been humbled by the diligence and humor that the birds nesting in my yard have about their daily lives.
Taking time to listen to the bird calls in the morning and evening and to sit in quiet contemplation – without expectation – is a peaceful and joyful way to start your spiritual practice.
Your 15 minute mission today is simply to walk outside, find a comfortable perch and listen to the birds. While you’re listening you may want to contemplate some of these thoughts:
“In order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence.” ~ Robert Lynd
“A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” ~ Chinese Proverb
“Use what talents you possess: The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.” ~Henry Van Dyke
“The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.” ~ James Matthew Barrie
Now that wasn’t so bad was it? What, if anything did you glean from your time with the birds?
What thoughts popped into your head that you thought were totally random?
Share your “birding” experience with your fellow 15-minute spirituality travelers!