Lessons from Bird Karma

By Steve Priester

As we progress along on our spiritual journeys, we can learn a lot from earth’s natural order. Nature is said to be perfect and in total balance. Take the life of birds, for example. One early May morning while birding in Silver River State Park, we came upon a family of barred owls. The parent owl was high up on a branch, positioned between the two fledglings. The parents took turns feeding the young owls, tearing at the food and then putting it in their mouths. It seemed like such a natural thing to witness, until the tail of the squirrel suddenly dropped down from the branch. Oh well, the owl is a bird of prey. Makes you wonder how this particular incident was perceived by the squirrel family?

Some say that nature can be cruel. Perhaps this is the case only when we decide to judge.

I had been watching a mourning dove sitting on her nest in my yard. Doves are not good nest builders, but they do make an effort to conceal themselves. As I was pulling into my driveway the next day, one crow was flying out of the bottlebrush tree with something in its mouth, while a second crow was cawing away. I already knew what had happened —the crows had found and raided the nest. Mourning doves are a very peaceful bird, and it was disheartening to see the crow on the neighbor’s roof eating the young bird.

However, the following day, a mob of scolding crows was making an awful noise in the largest pine tree in our neighborhood. I walked over there to investigate and found an adult great horned owl perched near the top of the tree. The great horned owl is a predator of the crow, swooping down at night to snatch the roosting birds. Was this still the perfect natural order I was witnessing, or was there a bit of karma involved? The same crows that preyed on the young mourning doves were now themselves the prey of the great horned owl.

Everything in Balance
I tend to think that nature is perfect, from the squirrel that is eaten by the barred owls to the pecking order of the mourning doves, crows and the great horned owl. Everything is in balance and all birds have a role to play. From a spiritual perspective, we can learn a lot from nature. Perhaps like the birds, we too have a role to play. Maybe life really is perfect, just the way it is supposed to be. If we practice acceptance, we will find that the balance and perfection that is found in nature can also be found in our life. If we do not judge nature, we can also choose to not judge life. And when the judging stops, we’ll be just that much further along on our spiritual journeys.

When we view nature, we tend to see the big picture. Everything appears to be interconnected and in balance. When we view life, do we also see the big picture, or do we peer from an ego perspective? Oh my, something somewhere is not to our liking and we need to change it. We actually believe, at times, that we know what is best, not just for ourselves, but also for others. While there are many things in life we can change, there are also many things that we need to accept. This willingness to accept is but another leg on our spiritual journey.

Spending time in nature is food for the soul and helps to keep us grounded. Take a morning walk in the woods and listen to the orchestra in the trees. Each bird has its own song, some more melodious than others. The cardinal sings, while the red-shouldered hawk calls and the doves coo. We can learn a lot from our feathered friends. Does the wren wish it could soar with the vultures or is it content to be the best wren it can be? Does the catbird wish it could sing like the vireo or is it simply content to meow? Birds just accept what is.

It is when we choose to see the world through the practice of acceptance that we will start to find the peace that is so prevalent in nature.

While we are sentient beings and appear to be more evolved than birds, they can nevertheless do something we can only dream of—fly of their own accord. Unfortunately for us humans, we must wait for our return to Spirit before we too can experience the joy of flight.

Steve Priester is an experienced birder who lived in Minnesota prior to retiring to Florida. He enjoys running and being in nature. Steve’s spiritual journey includes A Course in Miracles, Zen and time spent listening to Spirit. He can be reached at stvpriester@yahoo.com.

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