I spotted a satin bowerbird building his ‘love shack’ in a sheltered part of our garden. My Wiki source says that these clever birds are endemic to eastern Australia. If you’re from another part of the world and aren’t familiar with bower birds, here’s a pic of a male:
I’ve known for a long time that bowerbirds are collectors of objects. They especially love blue things: drinking straws, bottle caps, and clothes pegs, for instance. Here’s some of the stuff ‘our’ bowerbird has accumulated with the idea of impressing a potential mate.
By extension, in Australia, people who are obsessive collectors are called bowerbirds. We’re talking about a person who sees a possible use for every sort of thing. The guest room may have no room for guests and the garage no space for a car.
I’ve flattered myself over the years that I am the opposite of an accumulator. I like ‘green bagging’ and frequently drop cast off clothing at the thrift shops.
I had an insight, though, when I was meditating the other day. First off, I should say, I’m a relatively new meditator – just two years. So, what I’m about to describe my seem obvious to you veterans out there. But I never said I was a fast learner.
I’m often distracted from my focus while meditating. Instead of watching my breath or listening to sounds, I’m lost in thought activity. Lately I’ve been noticing exactly what the main content of my thoughts is. I’m planning yoga classes.
This is funny because, at the moment, I’m only teaching 2 classes per week and the occasional workshop. I mean how much planning does that take for an old hand?
But you see, I’m like the bowerbird. Only I’m not accumulating pretty objects. I’m collecting ideas for what I might do in my own yoga practice or what I might teach. It’s a habit of 30 plus years, outdated, but entrenched. I’m thinking yoga much of the time.
What will I do with the shiny ideas that come out of my thinking? Like the bower bird, I want to drum up interest. I hope to attract students and keep them coming because they are never bored. That’s not a bad thing except for one bit. Behind my thinking, there lurks a driven sort of need to stay on top of things, to be interesting as a teacher, and to better at what I do. And, behind that need is a fear of not being enough.
My God, this meditation stuff is provocative! Where’s the mental peace in it?
I’ve discovered that it’s a fascinating activity just catching myself in the act of thinking.
Here’s the good part. In the infinitesimally tiny wedge between thinking and recognising that I’m thinking is the Land of Choice. I might go on collecting ideas for teaching or get swept along in any other kind of thinking. Or, upon recognising that I’ve fallen in the thought stream, I can choose to haul myself out and watch what’s going on in the moment.
What has this insight meant in terms of my meditation practice? I’d like to report that it’s become quieter in my head. But if I switch off planning mode, invariably some other sort of thinking arises. Minds think; that’s what they do. In my case now, I have chosen to leave yoga planning out of my sitting time, and I can do it at another time, or not. That’s a huge freedom.
Perhaps free as a bird?
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