I spent the weekend sharing a Chicago apartment with a bird (and seven friends). A handsome little cockatiel with orange cheeks and a bright yellow crest, named Byrd. By the end of the weekend he had been christened “Byrd Reynolds” for his flirty nature and love of blonds. Byrd took a liking to me largely for the fact I have long, blond hair similar to his owner. He wanted more than anything to sit on my shoulder and have me whistle to him. Alas. I can’t whistle a tune to save my life and I have this slight phobia of birds.
Perspective Shapes Our Reality.
In Byrd’s world, long-haired blonds love him, sing to him, ply him with treats, and let him hang out for long periods of time on their shoulders. Imagine his dismay when he discovered I couldn’t whistle back to him the tune he sang to me, and that I flinched, ever so slightly, when he landed on my shoulder.
In my world, birds are the cause of a slight panicky feeling in the pit of my stomach. My phobia stems from the childhood chore of collecting eggs from the nesting boxes of the hen house; I am not a fan of feathers against my skin, beady eyes, the potential pecking from beaks. Also, I am not a fan of the sound of wings in motion having been terrorized by bats flying above my head as a child; one of the hazards of sleeping without mosquito netting in Africa.
Byrd Reynolds enjoys free range in the apartment and his cries to be let out of his cage couldn’t be ignored. Once the door was lifted, he zeroed in on me. It took a significant amount of willpower to not scream when Byrd gracefully landed on my shoulder. And, here is where Byrd’s perspective hampered him and kept him from getting all of the doting attention he wanted. My dark-haired friend Sharon is a natural animal lover and would have been thrilled to have Byrd land on her shoulder and whistle in her ear. She could have even whistled his little ditty back to him.
Choosing to set aside unnerving childhood experiences allowed me to shift my perspective enough to truly enjoy Byrd. My favorite moment was sitting on the couch with the little guy perched next to me on the cushions. He just sang his little heart out while my friend Carolyn, who could whistle a tune, whistled back to him, while I whistle-synched. We had a good time – him free from the confines of his cage and in proximity to a blond, and me loving his friendly personality and being in the presence of a cute little cockatiel.
And, yet, I’m not sure Byrd was totally fooled. His shift in perspective was evident the next morning as he flew around the apartment, reluctant to land on my shoulder. He had come to the realization not all blonds were like his owner.
The Components which Shift Perspective.
It may seem a little silly to use my weekend experience with Bryd Reynolds as a way to explore what is needed to shift a perspective; however, the universe is generous about providing learning experiences nearly any place we choose to look. Personally, I’ve found if I can get curious about how I perceive everyday circumstances, it eventually makes it easier to explore the more difficult, resistant places in my life.
Our unique perspective is made up of our beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, feelings, choices, and decisions. A change in any one of these components will begin to shift our perspective towards a new awareness about the world and our place in it – for good or bad. These factors work in concert to shape our world; a shift in one will cascade into and impact another. Think of it like the raw material needed to whip up a dessert. Butter, eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, and flour can make numerous cakes or pies or tortes. A couple of alterations in proportions and you have something completely different.
A Bryd on my shoulder perspective:
Beliefs: I realized I was connecting my unnerving childhood experiences with chickens and bats – which made birds scary and unpredictable – to all birds, even someone’s pet bird. It helped I had watched Byrd’s owner interact with him before she handed over the keys. Watching their sweet interaction also helped provide a new context for bird and human interaction.
Attitudes: Being open-minded and willing to be just a little bit adventurous helped keep me in a positive frame of mind, ready to interact with Byrd.
Thoughts: Truthfully, my first thought upon walking into the apartment and seeing Byrd loose was, “Oh no.” After that, I simply focused my thoughts on how cute he was – and he totally was adorable.
Feelings: Birds in flight, if they are near me and startle me, induce a distinct feeling of terror, however brief, which lights up my stomach. I chose to focus on feeling calm and relaxed and breathing.
Decisions: I could choose to react from my old fear and Byrd would not be allowed out of his cage all weekend, or for the sake of someone else’s pet, I could choose to be calm and tame my fear.
Choices: I chose to not let my fear run me; consequently, I had the opportunity to have a cute little bird sing his morning anthem directly into my ear as he perched on my shoulder.
What perspective, everyday or radical, will you shift?