Bird Song

My first disclaimer is that I am not a birder. I’m not an ornithologist. However, I have experienced a shift in perception when I listen to the birds as they sing. Hawks have a piercing cry, ravens a warbling laugh. Each kind of bird sees us, hears us, and communicates with us and each other through sound.

We’re so busy being plugged into everything. Ear buds. Inner turmoil. Bringing the visual focal point to the diaphragm as we breathe, inhale bird song from your porch or on a neighborhood ramble. No need to go far.

Take a pedestrian walk along the river trail, across a foot bridge. Go to the boat launch and watch the fishermen put in.  Stand there and do the bird song exercise.

Bird song meditations can be accomplished several times a day, once per hour if need be.  Pretend it’s a cigarette break. Everybody’s doing it.  Maybe that’s why the smokers do this! (I’m not a smoker, either — I’d probably be dead by now if I were, like most of my smoker friends.)

No one has to know what you are doing. If you become curious, look up the birds and learn them by their songs. The Audobon Society has great web-sounds.  Let me conclude with a link to the raven’s “low honks near nest.” These are the sounds of contentment, home and family. They pierce the gloom of human misery.

Nature Reset — Take a Walk and Jot

Nature will walk beside us if we let her. I’ve seen lots of local people taking to the trails recently, and the general advice around here is to walk with someone. High crime rates everywhere, the danger of the black bear or the mountain lion. Everyone I know has a rattlesnake story, mostly sightings, a few dramatic runs to the ER after a bite. What I observe and want to share is that we should be noisy now and then but not chatter constantly, in order to gather the benefit of peaceful surroundings.

We need to be quiet a while to capture the benefit.

If we are naturally afraid of nature in all its unromantic perils (real stuff), then perhaps paved trails with benches are better.

I want to encourage people to try twenty minutes of silence on a bench by the river or on a rock in the forest. I know twenty minutes seems a long spell. We give twenty minutes to our computer screen, but not twenty minutes to finding out who we are.  The walking to the spot should also take about twenty minutes.

This is a forty-minute reset that works, as far as I can tell. If you have a companion with you, do not discuss the day’s stresses.  That requires adding another twenty minutes to the walk. Once you sit or stand, make sure you each have a private time.  Sharing afterwards can increase intimacy.  What’s really on your deep mind?

I thought it was all that trouble at work — the emails! The crazy way people like to drop insults and feel superior! It turns out, when I become quiet, what’s really bothering me seems more existential. I’ve been thinking about why I’m here in this place. Am I really suited to the climate? Do I like the people I’m interacting with? Do they like me? Beyond all these doubts, when the twenty minute timer chimes its nice chime (iPhone magic), I understand that once again, I’m not sure I’m able to make a contribution that matters.

I take a brief moment to write down what I’m willing and able to contribute today. Some of the rest of what I’m worried about isn’t mine to do anything about: I cannot fix what others think of me. I probably cannot be better than willing to contribute, generous with others, and willing to forgive. As a result, I have a list of what I’m able to do, a list of what the day has to accomplish for itself, with the help of others, or God, or Buddha nature, or the Universe.  Raven’s laughter.  I hear it.  There is a small bunch of lavender in front of me.  I see it.

Then I can release. My list can appear on my iPhone or on a pad of paper.  I can delete it or burn it.  The point is, I’m finally congruent with myself. That matters enough. I’m close to my true nature, and the bugs, the snakes, and the bears cannot take that away.