“I don’t know anything about consciousness. I just try to teach my students how to hear the birds sing.”
~ Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
The birds that surround us are not random passersby: They are our neighbors. Neither is their behavior arbitrary and incomprehensible: They have daily routines, just like us, and they constantly communicate with each other, even across species. Our ancestors derived valuable information from birds on what was happening in their environment (location of prey and predators and early warnings of natural disasters, among other things). We too can learn what nature guide Jon Young, author of What the Robin Knows, calls “deep bird language,” and thus resume our side of the dialogue.
Invitation for Practice
Find a “sit spot” in which you can stay for ten minutes every morning or evening in quiet contemplation. Tune into the sound of birds in your midst. Notice the pitches, rhythms, melodies of their calls. See if you can feel into what they might be communicating: are they singing, alarmed, contentious, or just having a placid morning feeding? Notice the familiarity and variety of birdsongs — different species of birds make their home in different places, and each has a different song. Which birds are making their home (even if temporary) where you are?
This practice is what Young likes to call “going out to hear the news of the day,” and it can be an occasional nice alternative to other kinds of news. If you don’t hear birds when you engage in this practice, try to tune into other sounds from the natural world. You can also supplement your practice with the Sound Sanctuary. What’s being expressed by nature’s voices? Share the news of the birds and nature with your loved ones, and rejoice in your expanded view of community.
We invite you to share your reflections in the space below the author bio.
Enjoy the full seven-day Nourishing Our Nature practice.
Fabiana Fondevila is a writer and teacher from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her latest book, “Where Wonder Lives: Practices for Cultivating the Sacred in Your Daily Life” was published in February 2021. Fabiana teaches online workshops and seminars on living a life of awe and radical aliveness. You can learn more about her offerings at FabianaFondevila.com. She is also a founding member of Vivir Agradecidos, our organizational partner in Argentina.
Image by Sandy Müller/Pixabay
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My morning song 🎶
caw of the crows
accompanied by a resounding
squawk of a flock of parrots. 🦜
Thank you for these beautiful reminders to look up and pay attention to some of the things we can easily bypass – the skies, the clouds, the birds. It’s so rewarding to to deliberately pause to take it in. I’ve been trying to pay more attention to what I pay attention to, and these practices are very helpful!
I love listening to the 🐦 song’s each morning and imagine I’m flying with them. It helps lighten my ❤️ and engage my soul in play.
Yes…. expanded sense of community 🙂
We live in a condo four floors above ground level. I had wanted to put bird feeders on my balcony – but my husband reminded me that they would also take advantage of my potted herb plants on the balcony. Luckily we have two trees on either side of the balcony – and the birds love to fly into the trees singing joyous songs – so I sit on one of the chairs on the balcony and enjoy watching and listening to the birds – sometimes in the morning – sometimes in the afternoon – sometimes in the evening. It is always a beautiful sight and serenade.
I had just finished filling up my bird feeders and making fresh nectar for the hummingbirds, when I came in to read this post. I’m sure multiple species keep an eye on me from tall trees because as soon as I walk out the door with canisters of tasty seed, I hear a chorus of thanks from above. The sounds are so happy, I really feel they are saying thank you and flying from tree to tree announcing to other birds that “she’s here!” I often think that hungry humans would want to be silent at the sight of food, so that we could keep it all for ourselves and a few family members, always the fear of not-enough. From all my many years of feeding birds I am still amazed at their announcement, proclamation, to come share, never hoard, come share. That’s a big lesson.
I was mourning it being a little too late in the day. I missed the dawn chorus. But, it’s Sunday and it’s so quiet. 7:45 am and no cars. From the highest balcony off the house, in our densely tree-lined yard, Nature is showing off. Insects (Cicadas and crickets), the waterfall in the creek, then a series of chirrups, a series of tweets, now it’s a cacophony… I wonder what all the fuss is about, lol.
Birdsong escapes me because of the severity of my hearing loss, but my joy in watching birds has been richly enhanced by Claire Thompson’s glorious book The Art of Mindful Birdwatching, which is especially good for those of us with little skill at bird identification. Published in the UK in 2017, this book is widely available internationally. And on the subject of books, I have just bought Fabiana’s Where Wonder Lives: Practices for Cultivating the Sacred in Your Daily Life, so a banquet of delights now awaits me.
So happy to hear that, Christopher, I do hope you enjoy it! And I will look into Claire’s book. Listening or watching, birds are the steadiest and most faithful companions. Nice to share this shimmering tribe!
Thank you, Fabiana. After reading your Introduction I went straight to The Mountaintop – which seemed a good place for a septuagenarian to start! – and I am thrilled with what I find there. The exercises for learning to tell a bigger story are tailor-made for me, and the first two acts of the Journey define with uncanny accuracy what has been happening in my life over the past three years. So now I am inspired by you to embrace the third act. Entering this territory feels like a quantum leap in understanding myself: ‘Once we know that a greater life awaits us, we must walk resolutely in the direction of that challenge.’ I am abundantly grateful to you.
That is SO wonderful to hear, Christopher! Sounds like you have / have had an amazing life, and are preparing for a no less astonishing third act. All blessings on your journey!