Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Rooting Out the Bad Eggs: A Lesson from the Cowbird

Many people say that having children gives you a shot at a second childhood. This seems mostly true: being an active participant and observer in my kids' lives lets me play and learn like a kid again. Just last week my husband and I went along on a Cub Scout outing to a local arboretum to learn about birding. Since I am trying to learn more about local plants and wildlife, I paid close attention.

One of my favorite ways to study spirituality is through the lens of nature, looking at the natural world as a reflection of spiritual truths. This is a belief held by Native American, Hindu and African spiritual traditions, among others.

Something we learned on our birding outing last week gave me an epiphany of sorts, one that I may not have experienced as a child. We sighted a Cowbird, a species native to the United States and often feared and disliked. Cowbirds are brood parasites, laying their eggs in the nests of other species. The females seek out female birds of other species who are actively laying eggs; then when the nest is unprotected they go in removing or damaging some of the existing eggs, proceeding to lay their own eggs in their place. Cowbird eggs have a relatively short incubation period so their babies hatch before the others, are usually larger than the others, and end up taking most of the food from the mother, causing her to lose her own offspring. To learn more about cowbirds, go here and read up a bit.

Upon hearing the story of the Cowbird, I had the thought that everything we see in nature we can also observe in both human society and the human mind. I said to another mother next to me, "Sadly, we know people just like that, don't we?" After all, we're a part of nature, too. We find our own strategies for survival.

My Cowbird epiphany had more to do with the inner workings of the human mind than human parasitic behaviors. The lesson I take away from the Cowbird is to watch for and root out parasitic thoughts and beliefs. 

Each of us has an inner nest in our consciousness where we incubate good thoughts, ideas, feelings and beliefs that can hatch into our best life. We have the power to feed certain thoughts we want to grow and thrive. On the other hand, we sometimes find insidious, harmful thoughts and beliefs invading our nest. Sadly, we are often unaware of these destructive thoughts, almost as if they were planted by someone else. They often begin in our unconscious mind, subtly planted there, beneath the surface, waiting to take over the nest. By the time they hatch from eggs, we may feel like it's too late. But no matter how big or loud these harmful thoughts may seem, we can remember that we do get to decide which ones we feed.

It takes conscious, concerted effort to find and eject the bad eggs in the nest of our consciousness. Just like an avid birder, we have to stop, listen and look deeply. We can do this through any regular mindful and focused practice, (including birdwatching), especially in meditation. Meditation is one of the central components of a yoga practice, and the culmination of the strong and beautiful postures we execute. All mindful practices allow us to cultivate and maintain a deeper relationship with the self and to become the watcher, the observer of our thoughts. We may even get lucky enough to witness the very moment when one little destructive thought inserts itself into our consciousness--at that moment, or in any moment that follows, we can recognize its power to siphon our energy and rob us of our freedom to feed our good thoughts.

Take a thorough inventory of your nest today. Count the eggs that are there, and really look at them to see which ones you are willing to nurture. Throw out the ones that threaten the integrity and success of your mental brood.

In my own mind, a recurring belief that stops me from living my best life is the thought that other people can't and won't believe good things about me, and that their opinion of me will cause me to fail. I know this belief to be mostly false and 100% destructive. I am consciously choosing to recognize it when it surfaces and demands to be fed. It is my hope to starve it out of my nest.

You may have a similar recurring belief you would like to starve. It may relate to your relationships, your career, or even your perception of your physical body. It may be a belief that you can't achieve something or have something you have always wanted. It may be something as small as the belief that you are not good at yoga, or some other physical practice. Use every activity as a chance to observe your thoughts and beliefs, how they make you feel, how much energy they consume, and whether or not they are serving your highest goals.

Don't let a parasite take over the nest you have taken your life to build.

No comments:

Post a Comment