Yesterday I went on a walk with some friends led by another friend who is an expert birder to observe the spring migrators and the newly arrived birds who will nest here this spring. As we ambled up a trail along the Rio Grande, we stopped to hear the songs of yellow warblers, spotted tohees and ash-throated flycatchers. We saw a pair of great blue herons, dozens of mallards and wood ducks and even a Canada goose couple with their goslings. But the bird that most captivated me was the humble turkey vulture I watched soaring above the river on a thermal updraft, seeming to float in the cerulean dream of sky, held aloft by his huge wings. Unlike the other birds who seemed consumed with looking for mates, defending territories or raising new families, the vulture was just existing in his element, wings spread, an emperor of the air. He seemed unconcerned with the activities of us below as he circled in the sun, light glinting off his black feathers and bare red head, peacefully abiding.
When I sat to practice this morning I felt like those busier birds, consumed with my thoughts that darted from place to place like a flycatcher after insects. I remembered the turkey vulture and determined to spread my inner wings. Before long, on the air of my breath, I was able to soar, thoughts diminishing far below me, surrounded by space and time with nothing to do, nowhere to go. I circled in wider arcs, toward thoughts, away from thoughts, alert then dreamy, propelled by the in-breath and out-breath, peacefully abiding, free as any bird, if only for awhile. Such a feeling is a reminder of my true nature and greatest gift: simple awareness. It is worth the many times of bugging around in my thoughts to soar into the warm updrafts of peaceful abiding.