After a run of hot days and nights, a cool spell descended. It was early morning, an almost chilly breeze in the air, and Pam and I decided to sit for meditation out on the deck. After the morning reading, we sat in silence—or so we thought. The surrounding trees seemed to teem with birds, their songs flitting from branch to branch.
Then it happened. Nearby, a pair of song sparrows began to sing. Somehow in the clear morning air they seemed to be three feet away. One piped and trilled, and the other answered as if to finish the musical phrase. In the moment, all other sound was canceled and I had ears only for this duet. At times they seemed to be conversing in a kind of operatic performance, each song drawing a louder and more impassioned response. It went on like this for what seemed forever, as is often the case when time stands still.
When the recital was over, we looked at each other as if to say, What was that? We both experienced that, right?
In the days that followed I kept coming back to that bird concert. I wanted to know: Was that coincidence, or did the music start because we came outside and listened? If we had stayed inside, would the two song sparrows have come and sung their recitatives and arias anyway?
I can’t be sure, of course, but increasingly I believe that what we experience is determined in large part by how we show up in the moment. That is, I believe the two birds were drawn to us because we came out into their world and sat still. I would even say, They were singing for us. That may sound woo-woo, but we know from physics that to observe an object is to change it. We know, in other words, that reality and the way we approach it is dynamic and fluid. Not fixed. The matchless John O’Donohue said, “When we approach great things with reverence, great things approach us.” Our presence, the energy we bring, the quality of our mind and heart—all these things affect what happens in our lives. When we bring peace, acceptance, curiosity, laughter and grace into an encounter, things happen differently—and better—than if we hadn’t.