Mindfulness is one of those skills that is both difficult and extremely rewarding to learn. It is simply difficult because we’ve lived unskillfully in the area of awareness all our lives and now we try to learn it. So, be patient, allow yourself to fail and expect it to be difficult, but every moment you notice how difficult it is to be in the present moment, that’s the moment you realize how your mind has ran the show so far.
This morning on my routine moments of morning gardening as I was watering the plants, I noticed a little bird across the way, a Blue Jay, struggling to walk. Every time it tried to get up, it fell and it looked so sad I couldn’t ignore it, specially when a car passed by and almost ran it over. I went close, it seemed like the toes were broken or something. I took it in my hands and ran in calling Daniel to help me help the bird. I put it in a small box and it started making this loud screaming noise. I thought, “OK, now am I it’s mother? I guess I have to feed it,” and realized, “Oh boy, now I have to go kill a worm to keep a bird alive.” It didn’t seem right for me to do that and so I tried to feed it some food from our fridge instead.
Anyhow, as we just put it in the box and watched it, the bird tried to jump up on the ledge of the box and we realized it must be a baby still and not know how to fly. Daniel put it on the ground and said, “Let’s see what happens.” It curled up in the corner and I carried on with watering the plants.
As I was looking around another baby bird fell from the bushes above the rocks right where I found the other one. I ran in and called, “Daniel, look there is another one.”
OMG, what was this all about? Well, we stood there looking and yes, it was a “learning to fly” exercise where the Blue Jay mother had probably thrown them out of the nest and was trying to train them to fly. So, I carefully brought the little Jay and placed him next to his sibling and went back and we watched.
It was the most endearing and difficult thing to watch as these birds tried walking and falling. I could now see why their legs were so weak, because they had never used them. The muscles were not trained nor strengthened. We watched the mother Jay fly up on a bush, and come down next to the birds. She ran up the rocks and stood there watching and the little baby birds tried copying her. They ran for a couple of seconds and then fell. They climbed up the rock and fell, rolling down. Every time they fell I saw the pain and then the courage to get up, the motivation to do what the mother did; the need for food and safety got them going. Each did it a bit differently, but both failed quiet a bit. Sometimes falling on their back and it would be even harder to get up. It was an unbelievable scene to watch. I learned so much from their struggle – most importantly that I shouldn’t intervene! I just kept watching for cars and hoped that they don’t get run over.
Eventually, I had to go inside. In a couple of hours when we came back to check, the family was gone. There was no sign of any dead bird that cars squashed so we knew the birds had learned to fly at least to short distances up on bushes and then to live life as skillfully as they could. Wow, that was fast I thought! Sure, it made sense, because they learned it from infancy. Had the baby Jay I took away was prevented from being with its mother and this essential training, it most likely would not have learned the skill it needed to survive. Another lesson for me of being compassionate without wisdom!
So, using what we learned from these fragile baby birds, we allow ourselves to practice what we learn, to fail, to make modifications and to continue practicing. Being in the present moment is a very particular experience. It is different from any concept of “present moment” our mind can come up with. As the Buddha said, “However you conceive it, it is always other than that.”