BirdLife: The Magazine June 2017 - Page 64

Exclusive BirdLife magazine deal: Purchase both books for only £10 Go to the Leaping Hare website and enter the code: IN THE BOOKSHOP MINDFUL MEETINGS WITH BIRDS Birdwatching It’s time to meet the birds, and you can begin without even leaving your house. “Window birdwatching” is the ideal exercise to enjoy while eating breakfast or taking a break from daily chores Leaping Hare Press PRESENTS Claire Thompson The Art of Mindful Birdwatching A Reflections on Freedom & Being by Claire Thompson C O N S E RVAT I O N P R O G R A M M E O F F I C E R BirdLife International Also available by Claire Thompson: The Art of Mindful Birdwatching Reflections on Freedom & Being Mindfulness & the Natural World Claire Thompson Mindfulness & the Natural World Bringing our Awareness Back to Nature Bird and nature conservation starts with people who love and value birds and nature. Let this book inspire you to fall in love with birds and reconnect with the wonders of nature. PAT R I C I A Z U R I TA Chief Executive, BirdLife International Claire Thompson Leaping Hare Press is giving away fi ve sets of Claire’s books TO ENTER : email artwork, anecdotes or photos of your birdwatching to: Leaping Hare Press is an imprint of The Quarto Group s I sit here, writing on a cold winter’s after- noon, I need only turn my head to look out of my window to see a blackbird, a robin, a great tit and a wren. The blackbird, with striking bright orange rings around its eyes, is pecking for worms. In the corner of the garden, the red-breasted robin is perched on top of a bush. In the tree, the great tit catches my eye with its smart black mask and white cheeks as it hops from branch to branch. And the tiny wren is skipping furtively among the ivy looking for insects. If I listen carefully, even with the window closed, I can hear the great tit’s whistled calls and the robin’s winter song. Birds share our lives. Why not try “window birdwatch- ing” yourself? Look out of the window. Pay atten- tion for a few minutes. What can you see and hear? Whether up in the sky, down on the ground or in a nearby tree, you will almost certainly see a bird or two. There’s no requirement to be able to identify the various species you see. Although this can enhance your birdwatching experience, this book will focus on guiding you through being curious, paying attention and enjoying what you notice, reigniting a sense of wonder. This is the essence of mindfulness. already have that has fallen into disuse. Like the sun hidden by clouds, this awareness is always shining, no matter what we’re experiencing. REDISCOVERING MINDFULNESS Let’s begin with a simple exercise. Find a quiet place to sit for a few minutes. Start by notic- ing where you feel your breath. Do you feel it in your nostrils? Your chest? Your abdomen? Notice where your body touches the ground. Are you experiencing any physical sensations or emotions? Notice any th oughts you have. Become aware of what’s around you. What can you see? Hear? Smell? Touch? Taste? Just notice what you encounter without seeking to label it or achieve anything in particular. Noticing our experience in this way is the first component of mindfulness. Mindfulness is something we do. It isn’t a concept, an idea or a belief. What’s more, we all experience it already: it’s our natural state, prior to the accumulation of social and environ- mental conditioning. Mindfulness is less about learning a new skill than rediscovering one we WATCHING BIRDS WITH OUR HEARTS Mindful birdwatching is setting aside knowledge, labels and expectations while paying full atten- tion – moment by moment and non-judge- mentally – to our direct experience of birds. It doesn’t depend on having special equipment or particular skills. It’s simply looking, listening and being curious about life. It’s developing a habit of really noticing birds: their colours; their sounds; their flight patterns; and their behav- iours. It’s becoming aware of how watching and listening to them makes us feel. Moreover, being mindful increases the quality and frequency of our encounters with birds. In essence, mind- ful birdwatching is best described as watching birds with our hearts rather than our minds. Let’s remember that meeting a bird is a precious moment of connection with one of our most familiar natural relatives. JUNE 2017 • BIRDLIFE BRINGING MINDFULNESS TO BIRDWATCHING One of my friends has been an avid birdwatcher since childhood. He can recognise most of the different types of birds he comes across by sight or sound. When out walking with him, I’m fre- quently impressed by his ability to name bird spe- cies with unwavering confidence. “Reed-warbler! Sedge warbler! Chiffchaff!” In fact, I’ve acquired much of my own knowledge of birds and their ecology from him. Nevertheless, I became increasingly struck by how rarely he stopped to really watch, listen to or get to know the birds we encountered. One day I asked him: “Why don’t you ever stop and watch blue tits, they’re gor- geous birds!” He replied: “Of course they are, but I see them all the time.” Saddened by the fact that he no longer felt the enchantment in watching these characterful blue-and-yellow gems, I later mentioned mindfulness to him. Over the subse- quent years, this helped revive his original pas- sion for birdwatching. MINDFULNESS IS OUR NATURAL STATE PRIOR TO THE ACCUMULATION OF SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONING 65