This week I was reminded by my 4-year-old grandson about preference, pleasant events and being present in my mindfulness practice. We went to a wildlife park for the day. We saw many beautiful birds of prey. When asked which his favourite bird was, without any hesitation, he said he liked pigeons the best. His reason? Because pigeons have rainbow throats! Therefore, my practice led me to consider mindfulness and pigeons with rainbow throats!
At the time I was very surprised by his response and even judgemental. After all, there we were amongst some rare and beautiful birds, which we had paid to see. Pigeons don’t cost a penny to see and they are in abundance. Interestingly pigeons are often overlooked. They are thought of as being boring as far as birds go. They are often considered to be pests by a lot of people. At the wildlife park there was the snowy owl, barn own and an outstanding, rare and huge Bengal eagle owl. But no, pigeons are best because of their rainbow throats.
And then there was the bat cave. The bat cave is a long tunnel, mostly in darkness apart from dim red lights, which allow humans to see, but oblivious to the nocturnal fruit bats who live there. I noticed a lot of people avoided going in the bat cave. They appeared to have some element of fear and created stories in their minds that these sensitive and agile creatures swooping around their heads, would actually bump into them. But they don’t. With their inbuilt radars they are able to sense the presence of and avoid any object. They glide, swoop and flap, alighting on branches to feed on fruit or hang from the ceiling, before taking off again. As they passed us, we could feel a soft disturbance of air on our skin and the faint sound of their wings. It was quite a joyful and exhilarating experience.
At the wildlife park, there were some amazing animals, including a wolf, tigers, meercats, a lynx, otters and red pandas. When asked which his favourite animal at the park was, without any hesitation my grandson declared that the fruit bats were the best. Why? Because they have cute faces and are very clever.
Most often, like Heather in her recent blogs, I use my mindfulness practice to contemplate and work with difficulties and what is wrong. In fact, recently, I have had to use my mindfulness practice to process a lot of difficult and challenging situations. When considering what to write in my blog this week, the difficult situations came to mind. Then I remembered the visit to the wildlife park and realised that the experiences and my grandson’s reaction to the park visit led me to use my mindfulness practice in a different way – to look at what was right. I contemplated my grandsons’ reactions and also my own feelings.
Early on in our mindfulness practice, we are invited to look at pleasant events and how they make us feel. We learn that the mind has a tendency to look out for potential threats to our survival. To counter this tendency, we practice attending to pleasant events in our daily life and recognize that even in the most difficult of times, there are pleasant moments to be experienced.
Throughout the park visit, through the eyes of a 4-year-old I was able to see the excitement, joy and beauty in these animals and birds. They were uncomplicated and simply busy being a tiger, a meercat, a bat, or even a pigeon. I noticed that I was smiling and laughing most of the time. My heart felt open and there was a feeling of joy, happiness, warmth and inner calm being amongst these creatures and also sharing the happiness of my grandson.
Often, I notice that I go about my life not being fully present. I have preconceived judgements and preferences which cause me to suffer. In the Level one mindfulness practice we explore our preferences. I often go about my life distracted, caught up in worries about the past and future. I notice how I am often preoccupied and how I react, often quite strongly, according to my preferences. I was reminded of the basics of my mindfulness practice. How being fully present enables me to get in touch with a playfulness and inner peace.
I used the wildlife park experience to reflect and practice. Without my grandson reminding me to be mindful and fully present, I would definitely have dismissed the pigeon – or not even noticed its presence. But when I looked closer, I did indeed notice the beauty of its feathers and the gorgeous vibrant and vivid rainbow colours around its neck and chest. It made me feel good to view it with a sense of curiosity as if I have never noticed a pigeon before.
The same happened in the bat cave. Normally I only ever see bats as a flash of movement in the night. But this time I looked at bats with a freshness and sense of wonder. I was in awe of their agility and ability to hang from the ceiling. Their cute faces and expansive, rubber like wings held me enchanted as they flew about in the dark, totally focussed on feeding and resting. These creatures were totally present in their being. It occurred to me that they weren’t ruminating over something that had gone wrong in the past, or worried about some unknown future event. They weren’t fantasising about some special abundance of fruit that wasn’t there. They weren’t concerned about being good enough! They were here, now, fully present. Through my grandsons’ sense of curiosity and joy I became aware of the expansiveness and timelessness of simply being present and seeing deeply.
The challenge is simply to consider pleasant events this week. How does it feel in the body and emotions when something pleasant is happening? It can be something as simple as a smile from another, watching the birds in the garden, hearing the birdsong early in the morning, or feeling the sun on our skin. Is it possible to find the beauty in every living creature, in nature? To look more closely and be totally present with it. To let go of all judgement and preference. To be present, respond with compassion and see deeply what is going on?
I would love to hear your experiences. Please share a comment below this post or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wishing you many pleasant events to contemplate this coming week.