Encounter With a Flight of Birds

Posted on in On Our Radar by Scott Lennox

A Gateway to Stillness
and Creativity



A flight of birds, egrets, whiter than ice,
crossing a line of dark clouds.
Nothing more, but certainly nothing less.
A single glance, and I am lifted up.
Another time, I would have looked for some
grand meaning,
a hidden design.
Today, seeing them is enough.
(from Uncollected Poems by Scott Lennox)

It has long intrigued me how seemingly small things can cause life-altering shifts—shifts that help us encounter ourselves. Afterward there’s no going back. When I think of seeing the egrets that day I remember being aware that while I watched them something changed. Having dropped into an expansive stillness I felt fully present with the clouds and the birds and with myself.

I’d spent much of that day sitting at my usual table in the corner of a coffee shop as the commotion and laughter swirled around me. I had been reading a book and making notes in my journal. Late in the afternoon while looking through one of the shop’s west-facing windows I noticed a long dark band of clouds brooding on the horizon. Just then, about a mile away, directly between where I sat and the band of clouds, a drawn-out line of eight or nine southbound snow-white egrets flew slowly past toward the river that flows through town.

The moment wasn’t breathtaking but quietly engaging—a moment complete within itself. At the sight of those elegant birds in effortless flight, each trailing the other, I felt connected—lifted and inspired. There was stillness inside. When the last of them flew out of sight I opened my journal and spontaneously wrote Egrets, the poem I’ve shared with you. As I re-read it I realized that I had become so caught up in watching the birds that my conscious mind stopped thinking altogether, something I would once have sworn was utterly impossible.

birds are flying

In place of thinking a feeling of complete calm washed over and through me. Though nothing had changed in the coffee shop, everything surrounding me seemed quieter and less chaotic. The difference was that my reactive mind ceased resisting the outside flow of noise and movement. For some time I wanted to return to that deep inner silence and it took a while before a regular practice came of it. Nevertheless that one moment of stillness was enough to invite an undying hunger for more.

I’ve since written and spoken about stillness because reaching stillness is easier to experience than most people think, even in our overly busy, work-‘til-you-drop, productivity-based culture. The benefits of stillness are so profound and far-reaching; they change every part of us for the better and allow us to be with ourselves more openly.

It’s a medical fact that anxiety, worry, stress, and the pressures of our endless doing release cortisol—the stress hormone—into our beleaguered bodies. It’s also known that overproduction of cortisol leads to suppressed immunity, hypertension, high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and other health risks. Lowering cortisol helps us regain balance and health. Each time we engage in stillness, we help to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, that function that helps us rest and digest and heal. The moment we allow in true stillness we open the door for clarity and innate wisdom. Creativity naturally arises as stress-related obstacles go away.

Several times throughout each day, you might allow yourself to become still long enough to notice some small detail around you, whether nearby or at a distance. Simply allow yourself to “lean into” that detail. Then as you continue being aware, with no force at all, observe any shift that takes place within you. As your thoughts arise (as they likely will) allow them to move through you and quietly bring yourself back to witnessing the detail without narrating or editing. In time the stillness you welcome will deepen and lengthen. And though you may not be aware of it in the moment, you’ll help orchestrate your own wellness while opening the creative doorway.

And so, here are two Beautiful Questions: For what reason, either conscious or unconscious, aren’t you giving yourself the regular gift of stillness?

When and for how long are you willing to suspend busyness to afford yourself this gift?

Scott Lennox is a Texas-based writer, privatepractice counselor, consultant, and public speaker. Along with being a cancer survivor, his history of early childhood trauma and his service as a combat medic in Vietnam inspired him to develop Compassion in Action, a program that has helped thousands of medical professionals and others put into motion what he calls “the measurable aspects of compassion.” His podcast, The Beautiful Question, is found on iTunes, SoundCloud, and CastBox.

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