“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.
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