The Cardinal Mind

Come. On. SPRING! I absolutely cannot wait for the teeming life and warm temperatures that are right around the corner. I love how my neighborhood wakes up and buzzes with energy, goes from brown to green and becomes doted with colorful flowers. At the end of the summer last year, I put one of those yard hooks in the middle of my yard and placed an inexpensive bird feeder on it. The feeder itself looks like a porch swing, like one you would find on the front porch of a southern plantation house. I thought that my neighborhood birds would surely enjoy this type of dining experience. Slowly, one by one, I noticed that birds were stopping by, checking out the new restaurant in town. However, the birds weren’t the only critters taking notice. One morning when I went to check on the seed level, I noticed that the swing had been thrown to one side, ejecting all of the goodies onto the ground. My first thought was “oh gah! I must have attracted a bird that has weight problems!”. I refilled the feeder, set it straight and waited. Turns out, a bird with a weightproblem was not my issue, it was the neighborhood squirrels that wanted a piece of the birdseed pie. I researched bird feeders that were squirrel proof which was a very short project when I discovered that the feeders that keep varmints out are close to $100. Yep, I like birds, but not that much. So I found the hook and swing a safe place in the corner of my garage to wait out the long winter.

It has been a fairly warm March here in the South. This has kept me walking around my yard looking for things to tinker with. It is still too soon to plant or fertilize the lawn so really I’m just planning in my mind what I can do in the weeks to come. Then I discovered the castaway hook and swing. I brilliantly decided to put it next to the window in our breakfast nook, surely no squirrel would have the guts to come that close!  Well, I do have one that comes close but at least now he can sit on the window ledge and nibble without tilting the feeder and dumping all of its contents. Plus, with two seventy pound dogs pressing their nose against the window, he only shows up on occasion. Problem solved. I have been able to watch as birds of different sizes slowly work their way to the seeds that rest so close to my line of sight. My favorite is a male Cardinal whom I can see coming from across the yard. I can watch him flutter from place to place in my yard, inching closer and closer until he finally makes it to rest on the feeder. He takes two nibbles and is off again. He never sits in one place for very long and is in relatively constant motion. Reminds me a lot of my mind, my brain acts JUST LIKE a Cardinal.

I have been practicing mindfulness and meditation for quite a few months now. While I have seen much improvement in patience and the content of my thoughts, my brain is just as active as ever, doing somersaults on a pretty constant basis. As I strive to worry less, these are the thoughts my brain faces regularly: Am I teaching my son everything he needs to know? Am I making good choices for his health, and my health? Can I be a herbologist someday if I only know four herbs by heart? How big is the footprint I am leaving on this planet? (there are many rabbit holes for that one), Am I getting enough exercise, the right exercise? What new healthy dinners can I prepare that my family will actually eat? Am I even doing this meditation thing right? How can I uncover my gift for the world? Is my temper problem healed or is it hiding, waiting to strike? Am I going to looong for the more than one recommended glass of wine tonight? …And this was a 120 second stream of thought.

Imagine what it was like to be in my head a year ago before I attempted to control this erratic beast that is my brain. You probably don’t have to imagine, you probably know all too well because you experience this problem yourself. It is human nature and how we have been conditioned. Much like the birds outside of our windows, we cannot sit still for very long and it can be very frustrating when trying to exert control. However, I will not treat this as if it were a cardinal sin. I will love myself through this even if I never gain the control over my mind that I aim to have. I am going to remember that I have been created unlike any other in the world, no one is just like me, crazy mind and all. The progress that I have made in improving myself is very slow and it is certainly a process, but I surely wouldn’t want to go back to where I started. I will practice every day to be the person I want to wake up as tomorrow. If I am patient with myself and love myself a little more everyday, maybe in the days and weeks to come, that Cardinal will decide that it is safe enough to sit still for a while, in the space that I have created.

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”
– Lucille Ball


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