If you stand for a while outside today, you’ll almost certainly hear the beautiful, if slightly melancholic, melody of a robin singing his or her little heart out. They are one of the few birds to sing all year around and unusually, both males and females sing (both male and female robins hold their own territory at this time of year, so both need to sing!). So, if you hear a bird “song” in winter, it’s probably a robin. Stop and see if you can spot it, hidden away in a bush or high up in a tree!
But here’s the thing. It’s not about being able to identify the robin – or the great tits or the blackbirds or the song thrush – although you’ll hear all of them around, if you listen. It’s just about pausing, and tuning in. Something we so rarely take the time to do, in our busy, fast-paced, multi-tasking world.
And yet, when we pause, when we slow down, that’s where the magic happens. We notice what’s around us. Colours, sounds, smells and tastes all become more vivid. More full. More enlivened. We find joy in the little moments. So many people spend their lives thinking “once I have this or achieve that, then I’ll be happy”. As if happiness is always something to be pursued, chased after.
But what if…you could be happy right now, in this instant? What if you could choose happiness, no matter what?
Life is nothing but a series of moments. We never know how many moments we are going to get. The birds were singing away this morning just as they do every day – they don’t know it’s New Year’s Day. They don’t know it’s a new decade. The wrens don’t worry that the robins have a beautiful red breast while they are just tiny brown things. They don’t care – they just sing, in this moment, now.
We, as humans, are unique in our capacity to agonise over the past and worry about the future. And whilst I’m certainly not saying that the past has nothing to teach us and we shouldn’t plan for the future, I truly believe that when we can embrace more of this presence, more of this being in the here and now, and really feel, with all of our senses, the life around us and within us, that is when we truly come alive.
My invitation to you is this. Take a moment today to step outside, close your eyes, and really listen. Notice how many different sounds you can hear. Where are they? How near or far are they? Do they vary, or are they constant? Man made, or nature made? Spend some time just listening. Just being. And notice afterwards how much calmer you feel. How much clearer. How those pesky little voices in your head paused for just a little while. Take some deep breaths, and smile. Right now, you are alive.