I was concerned when we first moved to the city from the countryside that we would not see much wildlife.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss the raccoons raiding my garbage cans or the coyotes howling at night, but I was worried about not seeing birds, and other wild critters.

I was pleasantly surprised right away.  As I sat out on my back deck as the weather grew warmer and trying to practice “staying in the moment” or “mindfulness” I became much more aware of my surroundings and that included my little chipmunk friends.

We had a rough few years and there were still ongoing problems that were weighing heavy on my mind.  I was deep in thought. They started out by peeping over the edge of the wood of the deck.  All I saw were these little eyes.  That was as close as they got at first, I just barely noticed them. 

They watched me setup bird feeders and then tried to raid them, and then finally after a bad morning of spinning my wheels, I was sitting outside with a coffee trying to think what our next move in business and life should be and suddenly I felt this little chipmunk on my knee.

MindfulnessCredit: diane palmer

It was just brief but it made me smile and forget about everything for a little while.  I went inside and found some sunflower seeds for him to munch on, but then decided to upgrade to peanuts in the shell.

Not only did I now attract the chippies, but the squirrels came closer and then blue jays swooped in to get them off the patio table within a couple of feet of me sitting there.

It was nice to be aware of them.  The problem is when you get wrapped up in your problems you don’t really notice your surroundings.  I have sometimes been so deep in my anxieties that I don’t even notice what the weather is doing outside. 

Have you ever been so deep in thought you truly can’t remember the drive home?  You just run on auto pilot which means you don’t become aware at all of anything around you while you are deep in your problems.

I have a dog and a cat that need care, so that forces me outside for walks, but one day I almost walked into traffic because I was not paying attention.  I was worried about a whole slew of things and simply was not “there”.  So I figured I needed to change.  I was not getting any answers stressing and worrying, and a friend of mine had suggested this “stay in the moment mindfulness” I had been reading about it in magazines and really did think it was just a fad.

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these are a great way to feed the larger birds as well as squirrels and chipmunks. It is fun to watch.

Give your Brain a Critter Break

But your brain is a funny thing.  Give it a break and it can work wonders.  So, no way was I solving any problems by churning them around in my head over and over, so finally decided to sit outside instead of in front of my computer.  I figured the computer would still be there when I came back in.

The problem is the thoughts just came with me, so this was still not working.

Once I suddenly became aware of that chipmunk on my knee, he forced me to look at him.  He had probably been trying to attract my attention and I was deep in thought.

So, I got myself a supply of peanuts in the shell from the co-op feed supply store for a good price, and every time I went outside I would bring some in my pocket.

That Chipmunk was my First Step to Better Health

Pretty soon they were coming to visit and I would feed them a few nuts and really watch them and laugh.  You can’t help but smile if you have one of these little guys sitting on your knee or right in front of you.  I found if I asked my brain a few questions about the chipmunks that it would momentarily stop thinking about problems and try and find an answer.  I call them “wonderment questions”.  They let me touch them too while they were stuffing nuts in their mouth.

I don’t expect there to be answers, but it simply breaks the tape in your brain.  I started doing this whenever I could.  I still had to get work done, but I would look forward to these little breaks.mindfulnessCredit: Amazon.com

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If you can, set this up where you can see it best. For me it was outside my office window.

Bird Feeders are a Great Distraction

I then decided to set up a bird feeding station just outside my office window, which lets me drift away sometimes watching the birds feeding so close to me.

My cat of course, thinks this is great fun to watch.MindfulnessCredit: diane palmer

Slowly over days and then weeks, I became stronger in my problem solving abilities.  I had calmer moments that were not filled with anxiety.  By taking a mini mind break and feeding the chippies and the birds and really looking at nature and plants and anything that moves, I could give my brain that much needed break.

Life is Happening Right Now

Many can do this simply by looking away from their work, or imagining a vacation, but for me I have to actually be in in nature and see it moving, even if it is just a few plants, it needs to be living. 

These little chipmunks, squirrels and birds have started me on the road to be totally aware of my mindfulnessCredit: diane palmersurroundings and not constantly worrying about things that haven’t even happened yet.   I try very hard to live in the moment when I can even if it is just for a few minutes here and there.

Our brains need fresh air and exercise just as much as the rest of our body.  You need to carve out some time to just “be” and stare at the clouds or the trees or whatever.  Your problems can wait for a few minutes they will still be there when you get back.

Just take a wildlife break, even if that means starring at a bug or a butterfly.  Just get your brain out of that loop and you will be amazed at how much better it will work when it has interacted with nature and wildlife.