I live a stone’s throw from one of the top birding sites in America, the Back Bay in Newport Beach, California. As I watched and listened to the birds there a few days ago on one of my writing breaks, it occurred to me: This is so peaceful and relaxing, I should write a piece about this. Here it is.
First, to get you enthused about actually trying this, you should know that there is scientific evidence that listening to birds reduces stress. Scientists at the University of Surrey in England have been studying the “restorative benefits of birdsong,” testing whether it really does improve our mood. They discovered that, of all the natural sounds, bird songs and calls were those most often cited as helping people recover from stress, and allowing them to restore and refocus their attention. (Stephen Moss, “Natural high: Why birdsong is the best antidote to our stressful lives,”The Guardian 5/4/19).
Birds pull you into the moment
But forget for a moment the health benefit, I find watching and listening to birds to be a beautiful, spiritual, meditative experience. Why? For one, it pulls me into the present moment. The birds I’m listening to are singing right now. And the sounds are so mesmerizing that my mind (for once!) doesn’t want to drift off. My focus wants to stay right there, on the sublime songs.
Second, there is something so sweet and innocent about birds and the sounds they make. When you look at them chirp away, it is so obvious that they have no idea what they’re doing. They’re just doing it. By instinct. And not to get too “out there” about it, but it’s like God/Nature/The Universe is expressing itself through these tiny, cute creatures. They’re just vessels of God.
Which is why birds are so inspiring to me — because I believe we humans are at our best when we “just do it,” and don’t get caught up in all the crazy thoughts and emotions that block us from being vessels of God/The Universe or whoever you think is directing the cosmic show.
What to do
So how do you do this bird listening thing? That’s pretty self-evident. You go outside and listen.
Couple other suggestions, though. First, birds singing is obviously most pronounced in the morning. So one thing to try is getting your coffee, going outside in your bathrobe and slippers and just sitting and listening. And this doesn’t have to be some hours long activity. Just a few minutes will put you in a better place.
Second, it’s best if you can actually see the birds as they sing. Watching them allows you to truly soak in their zen-like innocence.
Finally, I wouldn’t concern yourself with identifying the birds and making lists of them, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you get into all the facts about birds and species, it will tend to divert your attention from the main intention: Experiencing the birds and their ethereal, majestic presence. As Eckhart Tolle says, someone who knows absolutely nothing about honey but who has tasted it knows far more about honey than a guy who wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on honey but has never tasted it.
Trust me, watching and listening to these adorable creatures that weigh all of one ounce will put you in a better mood.