Hello! I'm Shannon.

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« Field Notes: An Offering of Hope | Main | Field Notes: Fullness of Returning »

Field Notes: Lessons from the Hummingbird

One of our regular visitors to our hummingbird feeder.

Hummingbird has been my guide for this year.

Each year during the Holy Nights, I take some quiet time for meditation to receive words and a “helper” for the year — an animal totem, a guiding goddess, a patron saint.

This year, hummingbird appeared.

As an animal totem, they teach about joy, adaptability, stamina, clear boundaries, showing us what’s possible when we open our lives to the love and support of the Divine. They teach how to savor the sweetness of life, how to be light while also being resilient and powerful.

I have long loved hummingbirds. My Grandma Jackson always fed and tended to them, and as a child, I would watch rapt as they came up to her kitchen window to eat.

When we bought our current home two years ago, I put out a hummingbird feeder our first summer here when I spotted one sipping nectar from the tiger lilies in our backyard. Last year, there was one or two more at our feeder. This summer, we seem to have 5 or 6 hummingbirds circling about the feeder at any given time.

I know there is something powerful for hummingbird to teach me. And I have been watching them especially close this summer.

How can it move its wings in a figure-eight pattern 80 times per second? Or fly backwards (as cool of a superpower as any)? Or migrate 500 miles in a day?

I have been noticing how good hummingbirds are about boundaries. They don’t hesitate to fend off another hummingbird from the feeder, darting laser-like with a sharp buzz and a threatening approach that says “Back Off!” They are incredibly clear about what is a "no" for them.

And while they might be the most active of birds, nearly always in motion, when they are at rest they exude a certain potentcy of presence. A kind of serenity that is palpable and far larger than their tiny size would suggest.

Witnessing stillness through my window.

I love to watch how they pause on the wire that holds our feeders. Sitting for a moment, completely still and content, listening with the fullness of their being.

Last week, I was enjoying my morning tea and watching the stream of visitors to the feeder from my hearth room window.

And what came to me was this:

This is the key: To be in motion. And at rest. At the same time.

It seems paradoxical, but I know it isn't.

This is what the spiritual masters of many traditions have long taught. How to be in the world, but not of it. How to even wash dishes with loving mindfulness. How to be here now, fully present to whatever you are doing.

I am continuing to deepen for myself what it means to be serene and have stamina (my words for 2014) at the same time. At first, these words felt like opposites.

But I am begining to see how closely connected these two words are.

Through connecting to the quality of serenity at the center of my being, I can have stamina and tap into new wells of energy and focus. And when I am serene in my exerting, everything flows with less resistance and more ease.

I am so grateful for the wisdom of the hummingbirds. For all they are showing me and teaching me.

Tell me, who or what is teaching you lately? And what are your noticing and learning?

The view of our backyard from my favorite chair. Me, with tea, watching the hummingbirds. Bliss.

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Reader Comments (4)

This has been my journey this year too Shannon...being peace...having stamina. I know that stress is a huge factor in fatigue so the two states are completely entwined. Good to know I have a sister on the quest. I'm also learning to not be mean to myself when I fall short of my expectations about this! It's a step by step process. (I love hummingbirds too...they come and buzz us to tell us to put the feeders out when they return each spring) <3

August 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKate I

Kate — I am *so* glad to have you as a sister on this quest. This past week, I have been up way too late, too often. {sigh} Always a process for me of listening, expanding, learning, course-correcting. AND I love that your hummingbirds come buzz by to let you know they're back. So sweet. Much love and gratitude to you, beautiful woman.

August 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

Shannon, I'm writing to wish you a Happy Birthday! After reading some of your field notes this morning, I find it so interesting that you mention hummingbirds and Rumi. First, just look at the similarities in the words. But what I like most is that I imagine the Sufi poets whirling in the street, in motion and at the same time, filled to bursting with peace. Like a hummingbird? Continue with your daily practice, Shannon, there's something there.

August 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMary S-Ng

Mary, thank you for the birthday wishes and for your insight — love the image of the Sufi twirling in praise and communion with the Divine.— and for the encouragement around daily practice.

August 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

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