The Mindfulness of Birding
Mindfulness is the latest therapy and lifestyle enhancement tool to be brought to the modern life improvement stage of counselling. While its various forms have their roots within a variety of belief systems and cultures, it is one of the ways designed to help people get in touch better with themselves, their environment and their God (or their belief system and its values). Essentially it brings one back into the here and now (the present). Mindfulness as a therapy helps one learn to adapt and change unhealthy attitudes to past emotional and psychological injuries. Likewise it helps bring a peace and calmness from the fears and worries of the future.
A juvenile Rainbow Lorikeet watches its parent as they rest in a tree from the heat of the sun
I personally believe that regular birding (birdwatching) and nature/bush walks, assist in the process of becoming present and in the moment.
With the age of information technology and mobile phones many are spending much of their lives inside a virtual reality environment, and thus failing to connect with their real self and the reality of the real world surrounding them.
Social media approval, information overload and constant viewing of negative news reports adds to an already stressful life. We all need a safety valve to allow the stress and pain of the past to dispel and loose its power, to allow the real person to be restored and recreated. This better positions us to take control of our life, and move forward.
This is what recreation is, a healing and restoring of the real self. To do this effectively we need to deliberately engage our five senses – feeling, seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting. These are the windows to the world around us through which we engage the present.
The parent teaches the youngster to sit quietly and observe
Let me share why over the past 8 years or so, my wife and I, have learned to acutely train our senses (as many other birders have) when walking about, and how it develops and brings a level of appreciation, previously not enjoyed. It is interesting that when non-birding friends come walking with us that they are amazed how we can locate and photograph birds and other creatures which they have no idea are actually only feet away. Birding over time and with practice, makes the senses of hearing and seeing and smelling more acute. The above photos show a juvenile Rainbow Lorikeet (dark mottled beak and lesser orange chest) with the adult parent. I could have easily walked past if I had not had my ears tuned in to the faint unusual noises coming from deep within a tree on one very hot day. A strange faint squeaking sound drew my attention, and after a minute or two these birds were located.
The youngster was not yet ready for a mindful moment
Another example was while we took my grandson birding into the Royal National Park. We were trying to find the Azure Kingfisher to show him, which I had shown to two of my other grandsons on previous occasions, but we did not find it in its usual area along the Hacking River. Looking across the river underneath a large bush and well hidden in the dark, my wife excitedly announced a Nankeen Night-Heron, a bird we seldom see due to it being a nocturnal hunter who rests out of sight during the day. Take a look at this clip and you understand what I mean by sharpening our senses to become acutely aware of what is around us.
The more we seek to expand our appreciation of birds by investing time to stop and learn the art of being still and deliberately connecting with and tuning into our surroundings, the sooner we gain the skills to identify and see birds nearby by hearing their calls and watching their peculiar movement and characteristic shape.
Like all learned skills it takes time and commitment, but the fruit of it is much more than just learning about birds. The bush and forest setting, the wild flowers and plants, other native animals and reptiles, the dappling of the sun through the trees, the cool fresh breeze trembling the leaves in the trees, refreshing upon the face and of course the quiet solitude but for the joyful calls of birds. It is all part of one’s mindful experience which many have heard referred to as smelling the roses.
Below is the extract from my latest book “Flight of a Fledgling” on the art of Mindfulness:
Being Mindful to be Mindful – Living in the Moment.
With the recent addiction to social media and mobile phones, many are living inside these devices rather than outside in the world surrounding them. This constant monitoring of media and social evaluation adds an additional stress to an already stressful modern life. Practicing a simple form of Mindfulness Meditation can assist in relieving the stressful effects of the past and present by finding peace and rest in appreciating the moment or the now, using each of our body senses with an accepting, non judgmental attitude. Studies show it to be therapeutic to both body and mind in periods of stress, grief, physical illness and depression. Australia’s birds inhabit our many beautiful national parks and reserves. The following example is of a mindful appreciation of a rainforest which can be applied to any natural environment. It can be just ten minutes or more as part of a nature walk. The cool shady, leafy, scented atmosphere of a rainforest is a great place to escape to for a mindful experience, especially if you live in the city and spend most of your day indoors.
Female and Male Australian Logrunners
As you walk into the forest, find a place to stop and be still. Close your eyes. Focus your thoughts on right now. Push away any intruding thoughts of fear, hurt or worry from both the present and past. Totally accept the present experience without any judgement and let it fill your mind. Your undivided attention is only on the now. LISTEN: What can you hear?: The sounds of birds? Can you identify them? Running water? Insects? The wind?. Open your eyes, LOOK: What can you see?: Lush green forest leaves? Dappled sunlight breaking through the trees? The shapes and colours of leaves, bark and flowers? Is there any movement? Can you see any birds or animals? Take time to stand silent as you take in each aspect. Look carefully on the dark forest floor for our rarely seen Bassian Thrush (top right) or Australian Logrunner (top left). They will stand perfectly still if they see you and blend into the background with their amazing camouflage. Close your eyes and SMELL: What does it smell like?: the scent of damp rotting leaves, tree or flower fragrances. FEEL: What does it feel like?: the texture of leaves and bark? The breeze on your skin?. Be still and wait, allowing this moment to fill you with a sense of peace and gratitude. This will help you de-stress, lowering your blood pressure and heart rate, releasing the feel good endorphins in your brain, in this your mindful moment.
Being alone with myself and God in the forest is therapy and healing for me, restoring and revitalizing my spirit and body. Birding is healthy and assists longevity. Check out my page on the Benefits of Birding.
Our Creator God says “Be quiet [and still, so you can tune into to my presence] and know [experience the reality and wonder] of me, your God.” Extracted from Psalm 46:10.
Finally, having weekly (or weekend) mindful experiences while walking in the bush or parks, whether birding or just walking appreciating the sights, sounds and smells, gives us pleasant, soothing and peaceful memories to take into our busy stressful week.
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. . .then the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:8
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
‘To introduce people to our unique Australian birds,
So we can learn from them how to live a healthy and happy life.’
NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021.