One day last week I was sitting out in my backyard. The day still had that early morning feel to it. Bits of conversation drifted over from neighbors in my row of townhouses. There was a job interview that hadn’t gone well, medical concerns, all the frustrations and issues of the day.
Suddenly my next-door neighbor greeted me over the fence. Spying my camera and tripod, she asked: “What are you doing? Taking pictures of birds?”
I answered affirmatively and she ambled off without comment.
Given there were only a few jays and robins around at the time, I understood her seeming lack of interest. Still, I sat there feeling a little awkward, with my mind chattering away. “Is she judging me? Does she think I’m slightly (or totally) insane?”
I guess I didn’t have words to tell her what I was actually doing. Yes, taking pictures of birds was my ostensible purpose, but what I was really doing was sitting there deeply moved by the immense, complex and mysterious world that exists right under my nose in my own backyard.
That morning I really saw, maybe for the first time, the amazing colors on the back of a jay.
And I tuned in to all the creatures who were going about their business, eating, breathing, living and dying with scant notice of me.
Right in front of my eyes plants were catching light and using the energy to grow flowers. Butterflies were getting fat on the nectar and even the ants were having a fine old time. The amazing thing to me was, they all knew how to do this, on their own. I didn’t have to tell them what to do or how to do it.
When I write about this now it seems just normal, boring, usual, nothing exciting to mention. Getting a job, food, money, and relationships are way more important. And in a sense that’s true. Yet the opposite is also true. The plants take in our carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. The bees fertilize plants so our vegetables can grow. It all fits together in an amazing, intricate, interdependent mosaic that we tend to take for granted.
Maybe as children, we had the curiosity to wonder about all this. As adults, how much of life do we lose by labeling and then dismissing? When we slow down, and really see with beginner’s mind, we begin to realize there’s more to life than our preconceptions and ingrained ways of seeing things might allow.
This applies in all situations. It’s summer, a time for vacations, for spending time with family and friends at the beach or the mountains, or travelling to new places. Do you take the time to really tune into all those special, fresh new moments? How much gets lost in an effort to do it all and see it all, bringing the same busyness to our vacation that occupies our everyday lives?
Then there’s the let down of getting back and resuming a regular schedule of what may seem like routine activities. Even then, it is possible to pause in the midst of almost any activity to bring mindfulness and a fresh curious, beginner’s mind to our relationships, to our work and to our play. When we remember to do this, life can open up into a vast and beautiful richness.