Lessons from a Robin

Lately, a persistent Robin has been frequenting my deck at sunrise each morning. He sits on the deck railing and stares into my window and then flies into the reflection he sees, believing it to be a rival bird. This morning, as he started his morning vigil, I remarked that he was not a very bright fellow and was losing out on his spring mating ritual by fighting an image that did not exist. Suddenly, it occurred to me that I could be a pretty dumb Robin sometimes. How many times do I chase illusions or fight an enemy, finding that it was just my own reflection, while missing out on the best parts of my life? It is so easy for us to fight one another these days, to rail against injustice, to hold on to grudges, to live in an unchangeable past. Most of these illusions exist in a past built on faulty memories that are colored by our own perceptions of events and people.

Illusions can be highly addictive, because the anger engendered works as an energizing force in our lives, perhaps masking an underlying depression, sorrow, or despair. Whatever the rationale, illusions mesmerize us as we stare transfixed on a reflection, never seeing that the enemy in the glass could be our own unhealed self calling out to us. I think about the words of the title character in the book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, which I re-read every couple of years. All through his amazing life journey to rid his mind of the world of illusions, he would return to a single thought, “I can think, I can wait, and I can fast.” It is a statement that sustained him from reactivity and anger at others. He knew well that the world was illusory and reflective of his own inner turmoil. Although his statement did not protect him from sorrow or despair, nor from pain inflicted by others, it did appear to keep him on his path of surrender. So, as I watch my troubled Robin, an hour later, still attacking his own reflection in my windows, I send him compassion and love, extending that same sentiment to myself and all those I have perceived as enemies.