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Quarantine Reflections: Forced to See the Signs

The signs of God are everywhere in His creation. Stuck inside, I realized I have long been mesmerized by the sky. It is one of my go-to places for my own grounding and connecting to the moment I am in.

There is an instant feeling of being alive. In that instance, as the clouds shift or the rays of different shades light the sky or when the sky is so blue, it feels like you’re a part of this infinite realm of reality.

As a part of the universe, in that moment you exist. As the Earth turns and sun shines or it is raining or it’s just gloomy gray – even the grey skies are part of the moment.

My camera is full of images of the sky, the pink, the red, the blue, the purple, the orange…

Gazing up to the sky, you’ll never miss the chance of observing birds freely fly high or low. Lonesome or in flocks. I live near a man-made lake and canal. With luck, we get to see the different birds – the birds of seasons who travel long distances. From afar and wide, and those local ducks and geese that are here all year round.

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My Feathered Friends

Behind my house there are dense bushes and trees. As time passed, they have become a home for many birds. I am yet to learn which type of birds are my neighbors but their sounds have become my familiarity.

When the bats flew in flocks just after maghrib, while I was growing up, one knew it was getting dark. Our neighbors used to feed pigeons just after lunch.

When the sun was hot I would be sitting under the guava tree, observing the sounds and movements of the pigeons as they happily ate the grains thrown out for them. I think one of the most profound experience of birds comes from the overwhelming chirping sounds of birds in captivity.

One of our neighbors used to export birds. Every now and then he would have crates and crates of exotic, colorful birds making the most intense sounds. I assumed they were complaining to God. They were captive, about to be sent across the world to continue living in captivity in someone’s living room or conservatories.

The Meaning of Bird Language

I never thought much about birds, the sounds and songs they sing until not too long ago. I woke up one morning in spring to an incredible sound of excitement. Listening to the cacophony as I watched the sun rise, I noticed their chirping got more animated and louder. I found myself feeling hopeful and excited too – their excitement was contagious.

Why, hadn’t I heard them like this before? Perhaps I never paid attention to them, being caught up with living – but what living? I am so disconnected and walled up, indoors – inside my self-made world. Closely guarded vaults of my brain, assuming a very lonely place, so quiet only with racing thoughts of fear. Fear of life and living!

So, I have added this to my habits for grounding and connection to myself – bird watching and listening.

Let Sound In

Sound is a powerful connector, since it travels through and around barriers. It finds us, calling us out of our intentions, like the exciting sounds of birds that morning. I have lived in the same house for years yet I barely paid attention to my avian cousins. Their sense of community and kinship aren’t just ideas, theirs are lived, sensual relationships! And I get to be part of it just by listening to and observing them.

Birds’ sounds are the ultimate revelation of a living Earth. 

Just Listen to Them

As we attend and be present to the sounds of birds, we learn to belong. In the moment we are in, it is embodied with the knowledge of a place that tells us what is changing, what is gained and what has been lost.

Birds are living miracles of Allah’s creation. There are many noble lessons to learn from them. The most of it all is their tokenism of reliance on Allah. The mentioning of birds in the Qur’an isn’t random, as nothing is just random in the book of guidance – there are lessons and heeds to adhere to in the example of how one should live their life in total reliance on Allah and submit to His majesty by fulfilling His commands. 

Bird calls and songs are best heard at dawn and dusk – the times when Allah also encourages believers to “Glorify Your Lord Morning and Evening.” (Qur’an 76:25)

Furthermore, they possess one of the most noblest of character; the complete reliance on Allah. It was reported by Umar Ibn Al- Khattab that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him said: 

If you were to rely upon Allah with reliance due to Him, then He would provide for you just as He provided for the birds. They go out in the morning with empty stomachs but return full.

Tirmidhi 2344

There is so much we can learn from this miracle of Allah’s creation, only if we open our hearts and ears – we listen. Bird songs are beautiful, diverse and purposeful. Scientists think birds develop songs to spread their message. Allah says in the Qur’an   “…..all the birds glorify God!” (Qur’an 24:41) 

Singing Salam

I was recently reading a study in regard to well being and good mental health. People were encouraged to listen to birds out in nature – hence there being new parks built in cities and towns as it is believed that birdsongs are so effective at reducing stress and boosting happiness.

According to the study, our early ancestors learned that when birds were singing it was a sign that everything was alright in the world so they could relax. You all know before a storm or other natural disaster, birds are a great indication something is about to happen – they go silent.

So, whether in the skies or on the trees birds are a blessing, their lives are lessons to us all – all we need to do is observe, listen, learn from and appreciate – as they draw us closer to ourselves and to our Creator.

At the heart of the “Sounds and Thoughts” meditation is cultivating the ability to receive and notice. We practice receiving sounds as sounds, like a microphone, allowing them to come and go. Noticing texture, rhythm, pitch, silence between sounds and also noticing what arises in relation to the sounds e.g. labels, stories, judgements, perhaps liking and wanting more or disliking and wanting them to stop.

Knowing that these are natural reactions to our experience, the invitation is to bring an Attenborough attitude to whatever happens. Can we receive and notice all of it with curiosity and kindness? What happens when we relate to our experience in this way?