May 13, 2010

To-day I Am On Bird Time.

I start my mornings with a cup of coffee and a notebook, writing morning pages on the sun porch. Most mornings the trees just outside the windows are filled with a variety of birds, who move quickly beyond the canopy of green leaves and can be tracked only by their songs. They call to each other as if that singing is the most vital and immediate action the world needs in this moment.

Watching birds go about their business, the vital right-now business of perching in trees and searching for food and communicating with other birds, changes my relationship with time. Bird Time is right now, neither fast nor slow, just exactly what it is. On Bird Time, I find myself: mind and body and spirit, right now, just as I am.

I've been wanting to write something here about mindfulness. It's relevant to my art process, my art therapy training, and my everyday experience. It has utterly changed my relationship with myself. And it's hard for me to write about.

So what is mindfulness exactly? And what isn't it? Is it a thing you do (technique) or a way to be (perspective)? And what's the point of all this?

After three years of mindfulness training (as a foundation of my graduate school coursework), I have a pretty good sense of what mindfulness means to me. But it is very much a sense--a visceral understanding, a somatic knowing. Like the classic example of riding a bicycle, it's stored in muscle memory. It's difficult to translate the fullness of that visceral sense into words. I find myself stumbling vaguely around the concept, saying only that it's about what I notice, what I'm aware that I know and don't know: my relationship with Self in every new moment.

Other people have created fabulous explanations and definitions and examples of mindfulness. I'll link to some of them in a moment. For now, the closest I can come to describing my relationship with mindfulness is this: it's like being on Bird Time.

It's not just birds who are inherently present-centered, of course. So are all wild creatures, mammals and fish and insects. So are dogs and cats. So are young human children.

Birds don't live in the future: they're not making a mental grocery list or wondering how the weather will be for migrating next season. They don't live in the past: no ruminating on regrets or perceived slights. Birds are fully embodied in present action, vibrantly alive in the now.

And sometimes, when I slow down and listen, so am I.

Five views on mindfulness:

Havi Brooks on harbor seals

Jen Louden on sensation (not more effort)

Cathy Malchiodi on mindfulness and the creative spirit

Sparky Firepants on blauthenticity

Carrie Newcomer on letting it be

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Tracy. Beautifully (and mindfully!) written, and inspiring. We need all the metaphors we can discover for these essential spiritual tools, and I'm loving "Bird Time." I'll add it to my deep love for the little flying teachers, and to my practice. Blessings! --Melanie