Birdsong for Mental Health
I recently relocated to the jungle of Central America. We have landed on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, yet we are not sure if this is where we will settle yet. The reasons for our sudden move are many, however, it was something my soul had felt a pull to do for some time. My family moved quickly, and although it was challenging and vulnerable, we are here now, safe, simplifying, and slowly dropping into a new rhythm.
We have always loved traveling, however, the world is a different place now. We have all been living with C-19 hovering as a primary stressor while each of us has been adapting to the ever-changing social landscape that has accompanied this virus for the past nearly 2 years. I am grateful for my physical health, and for all the tools I had pre-covid; My connection to Spirit, yogic tools, community, my tea practice… each of these helped me cope throughout this pandemic, but at times I lost touch with my joy. I struggled immensely with my mental health when those tools were not as available, and in moments, I admittedly chose to turn away from them.
I left all the comforts of a life accumulated back in Canada. My King size bed, my Vitamix, and even access to groceries I have taken for granted – namely, nutritional yeast lol. I love to cook, and adjusting to having a very limited pantry and kitchen tools has inspired new creativity through this self-imposed choice for simplicity.
One of the hidden gifts of the pandemic was to slow down and remind us how to be grateful for our simple lives. Some of us got that lesson right away and observed how good it felt to stay home, to tend our children, to complete home projects we had put off or postponed till we decided we had time. In this forced pause, we began to pay attention to our body’s natural sleep cycles, to rethink how we nurture ourselves in ways in which we had forgotten or been “too busy” to cater to.
The unforeseen way the pandemic came on, rocking our world as we knew it, and uprooting us from our trusted routines, relationships, and life plans, was the cause of mass confusion and grief. In gripping tightly to the return of “things to normal” many missed the blessing of slowing down, and carried on supplementing stimulation through various means. Hyper-vigilantly awaiting the next update, mandate, fixed to an outcome for which we all hoped for on some level, for Covid to just go away. And, here we are… it’s not going away, and this life is for living, so I chose to step closer to the life I wanted to live.
It was a gradual unraveling. A push-pull of wanting things to be different, to be “normal” and a softening into a way of life I had longed for. Within the push-pull was a middle place of witnessing what is, a place of presence, and in that presence, reverence. Reverence is a value of mine and a compass in which I orient my life toward the sacred. Slowing down assists the cultivation of reverence, which I can put in other words as appreciation or respect for things as they are.
One of the teachings I recently received from sitting with respected Grandmother Norma, Haudenosaunee Elder, was that in our daily gratitudes, to notice the birds. How simple. The birds sing in the morning, and when we awake, to simply tune into their songs and let our hearts lift to meet them.
Here in Costa Rica, the bird sounds are incredible. Every morning I wake to a cacophony of cries, from the sweetest peeps of the Hummingbirds, to the wild announcement of the Green Macaws as they stream high above the canopy. Grandmother Norma told me that the birds are here to teach us to care for our mental health. I loved this. In my study of yoga + the elements, air is associated with the mind, the mental realm, our communication, our thoughts, breath and our prayers. When we begin our day in gratitude, in reverence to what is, to feel the light of the sun streaming in, to take in our breath with the reminder our life is sacred, to tune into to the simple reverence of bird song, it all helps to raise our mind to higher consciousness and lift our spirit so we can carry out kindness in our day to day.
Even, in the jungle I am easily distracted and get pulled away from presence. I notice my programs of “doing,” and in moments of boredom, I reach for my phone to peek in on the lives of my friends and family far away. Unplugging is a choice. Simplicity and reverence are always available, but in our complicated world where we’re taught to keep busy, we have to choose it. The birds are always singing, whether you live in Costa Rica or New York City… you have to lift your mind to tune into that frequency. Otherwise, it’s easy to get stuck, to feel dull, and slip into tendencies of depression + anxiety, the mental pandemic that hold a kind of inertia. Our feathered friends the birds, soar above the fray of the world, they express the lightness of their being carried on the air, singing their unique songs.. we can learn so much from them. Learn to listen to the birds again, to raise your mind up out of the density of emotion, find and sing your song, speak your prayers + celebrate the simple things that connect you to the beauty of your life, wherever you may find yourself.
Lastly, I’ll leave this soundtrack as a source of inspiration! Its produced by one of my most favorite artists + producers El Buho, who birthed this project of taking the songs of endangered birds and challenging musicians to make a piece of music from them. On this album, he marries the worlds of activism of conservation, birdsong, and electronic music. I’ve been listening to it the past few years, and only now making these connections… the synchronicities of life are real!