blue mat

Every time I unfurl my Yoga mat or try to sit in quiet meditation it’s the same thing: cra cra cra cra craaaaaaa! While we were away on holiday, the seagulls that nest nearby welcomed a new baby. That baby is helpless and needy and EVERYWHERE. Its call is plaintive, persistent, repetitive.

At 4 one morning I hear the baby seagull’s feet stamping on the roof above my bed. My five year old cowers and asks fearfully, “What’s that?” “It’s a baby seagull,” I sigh, understanding that we are now, thanks to that seagull, awake for the day.

The baby seagull is the talk of the neighbourhood. One neighbour growls that it woke her up at 5am. Another thinks it’s nesting on my roof. We stand in the road, our arms crossed over our chests, rocking our weight from foot to foot as the children ride their bikes in circles around us. The jury is in: the baby seagull is annoying us all.

I mentioned the Annoying Baby Seagull in my Yoga class a couple of weeks ago simply saying, “Every time I practise my Yoga at home, I can hear a baby seagull calling to its parents.” I stopped to draw breath and before I could even mention how annoying the seagull is, and how it was ruining my peaceful neighbourhood, a student breathed, “Awwww!”

AS THOUGH THE SEAGULL IS ADORABLE.

I paused. I reeled. She thinks the baby seagull is…cute.

Cute?

I am again reminded that perspective and what thoughts we form about something make a world of difference to how we see the world. Our lives are full of annoying baby seagulls—metaphorical ones, that is—and how we think about those annoyances can be revealing.

When I stop to consider why that seagull annoys me so much (when someone else sighs a saccharine, “Awww!” at its very mention) I acknowledge that my reaction teaches me about me. It reveals to me my own unmet needs, my own negative thoughts… how quickly (and shamefacedly) they turn to thoughts of violence against this innocent (if annoying) creature. Under this very small and persistent pressure, I notice how I respond.

When we meditate, we sit on a mat or cushion and watch our thoughts. And yet life itself is a meditation. We can watch our thoughts at every point in the day, sidling up to ourselves as a neutral observer, to see how those petty annoyances affect us. It’s demonstrative. We learn about ourselves. With practice, we learn to take a step back from those thoughts. And in that backward step we withdraw from striking the first blow. We momentarily retreat from launching an attack. We give ourselves a moment’s pause in which to decide: what, if anything, do I really want to do about this? We create space.

One of my best friends used to say that every Lent he would record in a notebook every unkind thought or word he had spoken about someone else in those 40 days. At the end of Lent, he said he had a very accurate self-description. Food for thought, perhaps.

How do we respond to those who get under our skin and make us itch? It’s worth noticing because in that moment’s notice, there is a pause, and in the pause, the possibility of liberation.

Copyright Lisa Hassan Scott 2015.

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Baby seagulls and other annoyances: watching those thoughts
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4 thoughts on “Baby seagulls and other annoyances: watching those thoughts

  • 18/09/2015 at 10:52 pm
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    Lovely as always Lisa….and reminded me of my first ever yoga teaching venue near Covent Garden in London where as a student teacher I nervously begin my first paid classes – the room was nice and clean, even though it had some strip lighting…but the first evening I discovered that the large main hall downstairs was being hired out to a ‘Work Through your Emotions via making NOISE’ type workshop – lots of drums and running and cymbals, shouts etc. Hilarious/stressful/learning opportunity all at once! Hope your seagull graduates to another roof soon!

    • 19/09/2015 at 8:27 am
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      Ha! What a funny workshop, and how unfortunate that it was right below your class! I agree that it’s hard teaching in a noisy venue. On the other hand, it adds another level of focus to our practice. Most of us can’t withdraw from the hustle and bustle of life to find silence. The challenge (and key) is to locate the silence within the noise.

      Thank you for taking time to comment. Means a lot.

  • 18/09/2015 at 11:03 pm
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    Yup. This is what I notice about me–when I’m taking good care of myself, unnecessary words are more likely to go unsaid. When I’m not, they bubble closer to the surface. The pause shortens. I finally got out for a run today for the first time since N’s accident. This morning, my tongue, I was biting it to maintain the pause. Things are easier now.

    • 19/09/2015 at 8:29 am
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      You hit on a good point here, Amy. When the pause shortens, it is often a signal that something needs to change or that we have needs that are going unmet. I know that running meets that need for you– sounds like you were able to lengthen that pause. It feels so good to do that.

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