By Annie Thoe
The majority of snow geese seemed to skip our western Washington feeding grounds this winter. I called a friend and Feldenkrais® colleague Martha Jordan who is also a swan biologist to ask about this bizarre event.
Martha replied, “Yep, it’s weird. They mostly flew further south to Oregon and to the eastern part of our state. My biologist colleagues are also scratching their heads.”
Since their shift in migration I wondered: What do the birds know about this coming year?
When the COVID pandemic got rolling last March, I decided to bring the wisdom I have learned from nature and wilderness survival into the front and center of my Feldenkrais teaching.
In this article, I’m featuring birds to help us organize for 2021 because they offer the highest perspective in the animal kingdom as a universal symbol for freedom and spirituality. With 40 orders within their family, birds are some of the most successful, adaptable and diverse animals in the whole kingdom. They trump humans in their diversity! From ostriches to albatrosses and eagles to hummingbirds, birds have adapted to all kinds of environments. Humans have used birds to guide us over the millennia to find food, water and shelter and avoid predators. Their songs, chatter and silence constantly communicate what is happening around us and impending changes.
Here is some bird wisdom for organizing within today’s global challenges:
Change can make any species vulnerable. Birds typically molt one feather at a time and drop the corresponding feather on the other side for balance. These small changes are more comfortable and safer. Birds can still fly with one less feather and aren’t “grounded.”
However, if you have gone through a major loss or change in your life or need to make a big change, it’s best to do as the chickens during a big molt:
- Stay close to home— until your feathers grow back.
- Attend to your basic needs—shelter, food, sleep. Give yourself some extra space and protection during this time of loss and change.
- Lower expectations of outward performance until you feel safer and stronger to tackle a new project.
Before making any changes, try looking at your situation literally from a higher perspective—from a bird’s eye view from many angles. Possibly hike up a hill, climb a tree, go to a rooftop and contemplate there (or do this in your imagination.) If you are making a change in your business or working with people who are undergoing change, try making these changes in “feather by feather” steps. Smaller changes help others stay balanced and grounded.
After decades of work with the Feldenkrais Method® of somatic education, I’m still learning “one feather at a time” works best with my clients. People with high anxiety need extra grounding before exploring new movements and making decisions. Try Feldenkrais lessons and movements that sense skeletal support and connection with the ground. Once a person feels solid with their bones, they will naturally let go of old tension and be receptive to learn. Check out some of the grooming practices and videos mentioned later in this article to help calm and support your nervous system for learning.
Safe Spaces – Nesting
Birds take time to scout out areas for nests that provide them hidden cover, ample protection from the elements and access to food and water. Even the process of finding a perch for the night reveals mature awareness.
It’s good to get a bird-eye perspective on your home or office. Look at your nest from different points of view. Check within your body if you are comfortable or tense within an environment.
- Is your space literally safe, clean and nourishing?
- What is distracting around you?
- What helps you feel safer and calmer?
Identify what things ground you and what needs to change. Perhaps there is clutter that can be cleared or recycled or adding a new color may bring more energy or help calm you. Attending to your space will help bring clarity and organization in your life.
Setting Boundaries: Respect Your Space and Other’s Space
As I listen and observe my bird friends, my respect for my neighbors in the natural world continues to deepen. The boundaries between wildlife are often invisible but interwoven in loose territories through their voices, movements, signs and scent messages. Songs and companion calls announce a bird’s territory to one another to avoid conflict or threat. Birds and squirrels are the loudest and most frequent communicators with their scolding chirps and flapping tails.
Even trees who seem so silent in the woods actively communicate through scent, roots and vibrations they emit to other trees. Science confirms that even fish talk to each other by contracting muscles at a vibratory frequency we can’t hear as well as using color, scent and movements. And dolphin and raven languages are so advanced that we have barely scratched the surface in understanding and communicating with them.
If we listen deeply to our environment, there is so much to hear and sense in this “nature interweb” beyond our human sounds of technology, traffic, jet planes and construction noise we have created. Taking time to sense our interconnections within nature helps us respect each one’s space and make better choices for organizing for future generations.
Here’s a practical lesson to quickly connect your body and strengthen your sense of boundaries:
Grooming Practice Warm-up
- Rub your hands to activate them. Your hands should get warm and tingle.
- Slide your hands slowly from your forehead down to your feet. Sense your skin and the response to your hands.
- Tap one heel to sense the bone connecting to ground. Tap your other heel and sense.
- Breathe and sense how your body is now connected to the ground with your bones.
- Repeat one or two times to sense your whole body connection with the ground.
- Do you feel more alive? Connected? Feel your space?
Birds and other animals spend a large portion of their day grooming. For humans, grooming practice is an easy thing to do, relaxing and a powerful way to establish a sense of space. This is great for those who tend to live primarily in their heads or feel disconnected from others or need to set boundaries. Check out these videos for a few variations of nature awareness grooming practices:
Warm-up for Chest with Squirrel Wisdom
If you struggle with creating order with something in your life, try using nature awareness practices to organize yourself in a new way—with the upside-down perspective of the bat or sensitize your touch with hands like the squirrel. Many classic Feldenkrais® lessons create a new organization for learning by shifting one’s body position in gravity. Applying nature awareness can quickly organize a movement or activity with a fresh perspective.
Here are a few lesson excerpts from recent classes that help shift perspective:
Transitions from Bat Wisdom: Stay Connected with Your Senses
10-second Squirrel Stillness Practice
Feeling lost or confused on which direction to go? The body’s guidance system is clouded when we are cut off from the environment. Try some of the grooming practices to get oriented for listening. Successful organization depends on clear communication within the larger net of wisdom from our environment and fellow humans.
As you enter this new year, review this quick practice and notice now what you sense at the end:
- Tune into your body. Rub your hands together, take a nice inhale and stroke your body with your hands.
- Sense how your bones connect with the ground— imagine that connection extends all the way to the center of the earth. Take a few breaths and continue to listen with this connection.
- What do you sense? What do you hear? Where do you feel is your next step?
Thanks for reading, sensing and listening. I look forward to hearing your insights from the birds and nature’s wisdom in 2021.
Annie Thoe is an Assistant Trainer from Whidbey Island, WA and practices in Seattle and online. Online classes with nature awareness themes and access to a library of audio and video lessons are on Patreon: Sensing Vitality: https://bit.ly/SensingVitalityPatreon.
Information and Contact at: https://www.sensingvitality.com