As a bird lover, I know how much stillness and attention are required to catch sight of an elusive wood thrush in the woods or to hear the faint trill of a flock of waxwings flying over. Lynd’s idea is simple: in order to see deeply, we must become silent and still. We must clear our busy, cluttered minds and remain open to what is around us. Also, it is only when we are calm and quiet that most birds will feel comfortable enough approaching us. (I once stood totally still beneath a tree containing a flock of chickadees, and one landed on my outstretched arm).
“Becoming part of the silence” is beneficial whether you are watching birds or listening to a Loved One talk about their day. Stillness and silence allow your Loved One to feel more comfortable approaching you in the first place, just like those chickadees. It creates a welcoming environment that invites deeper communication.
Your body language and tone of voice send signals to your Loved One. It is useful to think about what signals you routinely send and to record these in your journal.
If you feel disinterested, angry, hurt, defensive, or withdrawn, you are undoubtedly communicating these negative feelings to your Loved One. These negative tensions make productive, loving communication much harder. Not only is your Loved One less likely to talk openly with you, but you are less likely to be a good listener. You run the risk of not fully hearing your Loved One, ignoring them, or making false assumptions. The result is anger, arguing, and hurt feelings.
In marked contrast, calmness, when combined with the positive talk skills we teach you in Module 4 , fosters better communication. When you are quiet, you will simply see, feel, and hear more, and your Loved One will be more likely to open up.
Just imagine if you were upset about something that happened at work and wanted to talk to a friend. Which friend would you rather approach—the one who is constantly glancing at her phone and distracted, a friend who waves her hand dismissively and tells you you are “paranoid,” or a friend who sits in her chair across from you, looks you in the eyes, listens, and nods her head empathetically.
During a recent trip to New Orleans, I had the chance to watch the birds on Ochsner Island, a bird breeding ground that has been part of Audubon Park for over a century. The island and lagoon are home to one of the most prominent rookeries in the area. Here, hundreds of birds nest, breed, and raise their chicks, who constantly bicker and beg for food. (As you can see from the video, these birds are far from elusive). Bird Island, as it is commonly called, is home to ducks, double-crested cormorants, and anhingas, as well as to wading birds, like cattle egrets, snowy egrets, great egrets, ibis, little blue herons, green herons, night herons and others.
I was wholly astonished to see so many beautiful, large birds in one place. Neither anhingas nor cormorants have water repellent wings or oil glands, which allows birds to move easier underwater, so this means they must dry their wings in the sun periodically (a ritual I have always enjoyed watching).
As Lynd suggested, I set up my camera and was entirely silent and still while filming. An anhinga, who was drying his wings nearby, was curious about me, but never flew away (at least not until a chatty park visitor ran to the edge of the lagoon with her camera and startled the bird).
Take ten minutes to settle down in a quiet spot and watch the video. Be sure to listen out for the boat whistle on the Mississippi River, which snakes by the park. You may also notice the Spanish moss blowing in the live oaks, the pair of mallard ducks swimming, the snowy egrets flying over the lagoon, the cormorants and anhingas drying their feathers in the sun, the flicker of light reflecting off the water into the trees, and the canopy of a weeping willow swaying from the shore.
The next time you find yourself conversing with your loved one, remember the birds. Pause. Take a deep breath. Recall the communication skills we share with you in Module 4. Do your best to be silent and listen.