Did you ever notice that there is only one adjective typically used to describe birders?
That adjective is avid. You never hear about lackadaisical birders or unenthusiastic birders. The only type of birders that exist are, apparently, avid ones.
I am an avid birder. Yes, I know it is a somewhat nerdy pastime. My sister, never a fan of birds, cannot understand my enthusiasm.
In my estimation, birding checks all of the boxes for an engaging pursuit. There is the physical aspect of hiking through the woods, searching for a rare species (check). There is the mental component of trying to determine the identity of a bird you may see for only a fleeting second (check). I believe what makes birding most appealing is the complete concentration it demands (double check).
I remember once during the spring migration searching for half an hour at one location for a hooded warbler (pictured above).
The bird, a male, was calling. Hooded warblers are loud. Males repeat the same phrase over and over, trying to lure in a mate. You can hear his eight-note call here. The final two notes sound like a wolf whistle.
The bird is bright yellow and black. I knew hooded warblers typically sit on horizontal branches about 10 – 15 feet off the ground to call. In other words, I was searching in a tiny area for a loud, brightly colored bird who was moving around while emitting a wolf whistle.
I could not find him.
For the half-hour I searched, my entire awareness focused on finding that bird. If you could have seen my mind, I believe it would have appeared as smooth and blank as a cue ball.
My word of the year is “empty“. Last month, I wrote about achieving emptiness through running. A hard run can empty my mind by forcing me to focus on my body.
I believe there are many ways to achieve the emptiness I desire. Emptiness can be achieved through meditation, prayer, becoming lost in a painting, concentrating on a difficult piece of music, birding…
In other words, you do you. I’ll do me.
No path is right or wrong, better or worse. Some paths appeal to different personalities more than others.
Your path to emptiness can change. Mine did.
Judy, a fitness blogger and yoga instructor friend, once read a post of mine about faith and asked me if I prayed. I told her that I do. She asked if I ever considered meditating before I pray. I had also written about my struggle to maintain a regular meditation practice. (Judy happens to lead some fantastic guided meditations. You can choose one here.)
It seems like a no-brainer to meditate before I pray. Now. Before Judy suggested it, it had never occurred to me. Emptying my mind before beginning a conversation with God was life-changing, spiritually speaking.
One of the principles of yoga (saucha) is to sacrifice the ego. Emptying myself of my “self” is one of the goals I set when I selected the word “empty“. I want to empty myself of all self-centered, self-serving, self-important, selfish tendencies.
Saucha says we must be empty so we may be filled with light.
So does the Bible. A passage from Philippians reads: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
Whether we refer to receiving the light of enlightenment or to God’s light, the first step is emptiness.
No matter which path we follow, before we can be filled with the good stuff we must first find our way to “empty“.
You do you. I’ll do me.
You can find the places I link up here.