I’ve been using hummingbirds to practice awareness. Rather, I’ve been implementing the idea of hummingbirds into my meditation practice. I was once so comfortable focusing on the breath before. The Breath is the perfect and simplest object of attention because it’s a purely mechanical process that our bodies take care of for us and so we never have to be mindful of it for it to manifest itself. When I’m breathing, I’m not really doing anything. My body is breathing. In a sense, “I,” whoever I am, is not doing anything. Taking the time to actually consider it is enlightening. However, it was beginning to inspire me less the better I became at holding awareness and so I started shifting around other ideas. That’s when I started reading about hummingbirds.
I recently read about a legend from the Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Nation of Puerto Rico. It’s about a man and a woman from rival tribes. The story takes the same formula as Romeo and Juliet; the two of them fall in love, precipitating their families’ anger. The couple escapes, however, through reincarnation. One became a hummingbird and the other a red flower. The Taino Indians regarded hummingbirds to be sacred pollinators, bringing new life.
I began reflecting. Symbols of regeneration and resurrection, their life depends on seeking out the sweetest nectar they can find to sustain valuable existence. And even better, once they discover these nutrients, their long tongues bypass the bitter exteriors, almost like they are scavenging for hidden treasures. This I found greatly beautiful. It humbled me.
There is another enlightening legend I arrested on the subject. A Mayan Legend. It tells the tale of the sun in disguise, taking the shape of a tiny bird. I wasn’t sure how to soak that in though I could conjure an emptiness the size of the sun within me despite being so small myself. I have guessed only light can now fill it. A light that will perhaps give me warmth now that I’ve been swept away by life.
I kept reading on the mythology of these creatures, adding to their fulfilling use in my practice.
In a Cherokee story, a woman is courted by both a hummingbird and a crane. Why she is being romanced by birds of all things, I would not know. (However, after experiencing the faults of men, I can at least take her considerations into account.) She first chooses the hummingbird for his handsome looks, but the crane convinces her of an alternative. He bargains that there should be a race around the world with the winner having her hand in marriage. She agrees thinking of course the hummingbird will win because he flies so fast. What she fails to take into account is that cranes can fly all night long, while hummingbirds only fly during the day. The crane wins. And she chooses the hummingbird anyway.
This one I have mulled over and it never becomes an easier or more pleasant stream of consciousness. It makes me wonder which bird was really the better choice. Then I start to wonder about the choices I’ve made. I related this story to my divorce; it bears a resemblance in many ways. Indeed, I saw my husband fly. But I saw him make it halfway and then turn around, taking him into my arms every time. I chose him anyway. And for what?
There’s a work of art I stumbled upon prior to this practice that used hummingbirds to assimilate a mandala. They were banded together, beaks to tails, their wings freely flapping in the illustration. I like to focus on that the most now. I keep it draped from the ceiling in my practice when I’m finally rested enough to seek refuge there. I found it in an old book about the earliest descendants of mankind. It was described as the Algonquin people’s inspiration. They even decorated their spears with feathers. And in this tradition, they found a great peace in knowing them as their way of life. It was their cosmos and here and now.