originally posted on website June 14, 2010
“The goodness of a thing lies in its awareness and realization of its specific nature.” – Aristotle
The last time we connected in January it seemed it could be a long winter’s journey into spring. Now, suddenly it is June when the days extend endlessly into dusk and dawn starts to light up the sky just a few hours after midnight. About the time I find the lengthy winters in Colorado intolerable, summer boldly announces itself. And to me, the hummingbird (appropriately named for its captivating hum) is the official ambassador of the season. They have a magical way of ushering in the warm, sunny days, and bear a stunning resemblance to Peter Pan’s Tinkerbelle (if you are inclined to use your imagination).
While observing these fascinating creatures over the past several years, I have noticed that it seems they have a breathtaking ability to be fully engaged in whatever they are doing. And I suppose their innate wisdom informs them to do so. How else would they be able to muster the focus that keeps them from falling out of the sky? And what gives them the skill and momentum to suspend themselves in mid-air, fluttering their wings from forty to eighty and even up to two hundred times a second? Where does the ability to perform these acrobatics as well as the “innate wisdom” that guides them, originate? To me, the answer is obvious. Mother Nature.
When migrating, hummingbirds go for thousands of miles and soar to unfathomable heights while abstaining from food-all with a remarkable focus. Upon their return to your summer garden for nourishment from the nectar of the flowers, they will contribute to the life cycle of the providing plant with their delicate sipping extraction. And while connecting to the blossom, not only can they hover indefinitely in a state of uncanny suspension, but they also have the ability to fly in any direction whenever they choose. Then once they have been satiated by the sweet snack that attracted them, they will most certainly dart off in a blink without any attachment whatsoever to the experience. Because they know without knowing that they will always be cared for by the Divine cycle of Life in which they are fully engaged.
Doesn’t every living creature come from the same magnificent Mother Nature that created the hummingbird? And if so, don’t we humans being part of that Divine Life Stream, have a shot at developing our own version of magnificence? What then interrupts us from being able to awaken this brilliance of ours? Why does it appear that we can often find it so challenging to be fully engaged in whatever we are doing? Are we sometimes (or often) pestered by the inconvenient interruptions of our insidious beliefs? And can these be exacerbated by a menacing mind that never stops? Does this endless chatter take us away from the possibility of being fully connected to whatever it is we might be doing in the moment? If the tiny hummingbird can be so fully engaged in life, why is it sometimes difficult for us in our humanity to do so?
I have serious doubts that hummingbirds suffer. They might incur injuries or physical impediments that cause them pain, but it is unlikely that they ever sit around and wonder about their usefulness in the world, their personal feelings of worth, how they have been rejected or betrayed by other hummingbirds, or whether or not they are loved and cared for. They just go along offering their magic, doing what they do, or perhaps more appropriately-being who they are, accepting and expanding their territory from a bird’s point of view.
So what about human suffering? Is it possible that it could sometimes be self-inflicted because of how we buy into our beliefs and perceptions of what is so? And due to our conditioning over time, isn’t it often difficult, if not impossible to budge these beliefs and perceptions into a more positive way of framing things, thereby making us more available for each of the precious moments of our existence? (Here is a clue on how the hummingbird has an advantage-s/he is not in the least distracted by beliefs and perceptions).
Having been a professional in the mental health world for over twenty years, I have been exposed to many interventions for the relief of suffering, some of which are focused on changing our thoughts. And, I have found the exercise of such to be both personally and professionally challenging. How can you argue with a mind (argue being the key word here) that has had its way with you for thousands of years? It is a combination of primal conditioning, genetic inherited thought, and an infinite array of environmental influences to which you have been repeatedly exposed. I would say the odds are pretty much stacked against you if you think you are going to get rid of all of that stuff. Therefore, you can imagine my relief when I discovered a new way of addressing the thought-changing-dilemma through my work with Andandagiri and Krishnaraj, faculty members of One World Academy (www.oneworldacademy.com).
Among the many beautiful teachings that they offer, I find the following has been key in my own process of transformation: If you can become consciously aware of when you are being triggered by a person (either yourself or another) or event, you will automatically be focusing your momentum in an entirely different way. Rather than going into a fizz or trying to fix things by plotting what to do from a reactive lens, instead, you will be stepping back, even if only for a nanosecond, and aligning with the more peaceful, Witnessing you, that is ever present to guide and protect. This Unmoved Mover will systematically calm the spin you are in-every single time. All you have to do is to be willing to allow whatever is going on in that mind of yours (by being aware) without a need to do anything. It is then, in that momentary awareness that you will be quietly informed by your Wise Internal Counsel on how to respond to the situation, if at all. And how will you discern the difference between your responsive voice and your reactive voice? The latter will always want to make a case for being right. It never listens. It only wants to speak and be heard. The responsive Voice on the other hand, has no agenda. It takes It’s time and is only interested in truth, growth, and the highest good for all involved.
“The opposite of smasara (sanskrit word for suffering) is when all the walls fall down, when the cocoon completely disappears and we are totally open to whatever may happen…”-Pema Chodron (The Wisdom of No Escape ).
For some reason (I have never been able to determine why) we humans want to be significant. We strive for significance across all areas of our lives. We want to be noticed and loved and important. And so we build skyscrapers around our hearts to protect our vulnerability in an effort to be more significant without being hurt or damaged in the process. If we are fortunate, what we eventually come to learn is that the only way we can be safe is when we are willing to fully become exactly who we are. And of course if we are all connected to the Grand Life Stream of magnificence, wouldn’t it make sense that who we really are is already magnificent-without our ever efforting or trying to make it so? Coming to such a realization requires letting go of the walls, the cocoon, and the need to be significant. Hummingbirds know this and so they don’t have to prove anything. They just continue practicing who they are in all of the moments of now by going along about their business, making their exquisite contributions to the world and receiving back in kind. When you think about it, isn’t their way of operating in the world a pretty simple formula for happiness?
Rest easy. Don’t work so hard at it. You already know what to do. And if you need another suggestion on how to jump start things a bit, take this lovely offering from an old friend with whom I recently connected. This was his response when I told him my wish for him is that he is sublimely happy. “I am happiest when I can live in gratitude for all the things, big and small, that are in my life.” Pretty much sums it up, don’t you think?