Monday, December 29, 2008

Birding and yoga?

Imagine my delight at seeing an article on Yoga Journal's website that talks about birds as a means to sharpen our senses and increase our "nonconceptual awareness." (I'm not entirely sure what that phrase means, so I'll focus on the birdy bit.)

The article, an excerpt from Mark Coleman's book "Awake in the Wild: Mindfulness in Nature as a Path of Self Discovery," opens with:

When we spend time in the wilderness, it can be tempting to focus our awareness on “doing” something: taking pictures; getting a certain amount of physical exercise; traveling from point A to point B; naming all the species of birds we encounter. While nature photography is a lovely craft, and we need to exercise for good health, and understanding what lives in our environment is a valid part of deepening our relationship with the land, these activities can separate us from a more intimate experience of the natural world. It is all too easy to forget to actually experience with all our senses that which we are busily capturing and identifying.

The natural world invites us out of our world of fixed concepts and into a closer proximity with reality—what Buddhist teachings call “nonconceptual awareness.” Experiencing the natural world with nonconceptual awareness means that, rather than seeing a [small] black bird and thinking, “That’s a starling, a nonnative bird introduced from England several centuries ago,” we stop and see each particular bird’s incandescent blue-black velvet feathers, piercing amber eyes, and delicate, wiry feet. Instead of encountering the world through a filter of ideas, memories, and labels, we connect deeply with the unfiltered and vital pulse of life in that moment.
European Starling courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like this advice. He's right in saying there's a balance between learning and listening, doing and being. Also, sometimes the best birds come to those who sit and wait.

December 29, 2008 11:21 AM  
Blogger Ashok said...

Lawrence Wechsler wrote a book about Robert Irwin the sculptor entitled "Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees". That's as zen as it get! :-)

December 29, 2008 5:46 PM  
Blogger Left Handed Birder said...

There is nothing better, in my mind than to sit quietly and enjoy creation. It is amazing. That starling picture is beautiful.

December 29, 2008 7:20 PM  
Blogger dAwN said...

Great stuff...thanks..

December 29, 2008 8:18 PM  
Blogger John L. Trapp said...

I like this description. Perhaps that's why I've never really gotten heavily involved in competitive listing...because it takes away from the contemplative aspect of birding, which is what really turns me on about the hobby.

December 30, 2008 12:50 PM  

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