Zen for the birds? Or for you?
Blog #1 in the Soothing Series: Gentle ways to regain your composure and find some inner peace
How do caring for birds and contemplative practices overlap? With Zen cords! What a lovely win-win! Here’s the back story. My home has sliding glass doors out onto a deck, beyond which is a bird feeder. It’s too close to the house according to the Cornell Lab of Orthinology, but like everything else we have our reasons. The risk is that birds leaving the feeder will see the sky or grass or whatever reflected in our big window, and fly into the glass. Our feeders are too close to the house because my Dad lived with us for many years, and he couldn’t clearly see the birds if we moved the feeders further away. Dad loved the birds. Due to his difficulties, bird watching was his only contact with nature, especially during the winter months. Now we keep it close so filling the feeder is possible when the snow is deep.
Enter Zen cords. Zen refers to a Buddhist sect that meditates for enlightenment, or to a meditative state of calmness, attentiveness, and intuitive awareness (Mirriam Webster, 2019). Now, I do think in our country the word Zen is overused, misused, and misunderstood, but I’ll allow it in this instance. Let me tell you why.
Zen cords are lengths of parachute cord mounted above a glass window. The secret is to attach them at the top, but not at the bottom. These cords move around, thus alerting birds that it is not safe to fly toward the window, thus avoiding avian head injuries.
When the wind blows, the cords move. Gently they flow back and forth in breezes. They seem to come alive during brisk winds, dancing, connecting, untangling with the gusts. (insert pic of zen cords)
With a little imagination you can use Zen cords as a contemplative practice right now, as long as you are in a safe and somewhat quiet place. While sitting comfortably, you may want to notice your breath until you settle down a bit. Imagine you are gazing out a wide glass window. You wonder about the vertical black lines beginning at the top of the window and extending below it. As they begin to gently move in the breeze, you realized they are black Zen cords. The movement of the Zen cords catches your eye. You focus on the cords. Simply noticing. Simply breathing. Perhaps the cords are still, or perhaps they gently sway back and forth, or maybe they dance in the breeze. Continue to gaze, simply noticing, simply breathing. Enjoy this imaginary experience as long as you like. When you are ready, bring your attention back to where you are and sit quietly for a few more moments.
In your imagination, did you become engrossed in the movement of the Zen cords? With the cords as your focus, you just meditated! If you found that using your imagination was challenging, you are not alone. Sitting in front of an actual window with real Zen cords is ideal, but using your imagination or viewing a video is ok too. With a little practice and an intention to be still for a bit, you might find yourself feeling calmer and more centered.