I live in the city centre and there are a number of pigeons in the vicinity. Is it just me, or are they growing in confidence? I was sat in a café courtyard recently and a pigeon was pecking at food, right around my foot. In years gone by, I remember almost feeling sad because a pigeon felt it couldn't trust me to approach a couple of crumbs within my locality. They would kind of okey kokey their way towards me but never commit. However, there is a sense that this is changing. I’m unsure if this is because they have become so hungry that the reward of food outweighs the risk of attack. I also wonder if, after decades of living alongside humans, they are beginning to trust us more. From an evolutionary point of view, it could be argued that it is those pigeons which take the gamble and go for food in risky situations which are more likely to survive and thus pass on their genes to their children (I think pigeon’s offspring are called children?). Recently, I feel like pigeons have been getting closer and closer to human contact. If I walk down the main city centre street, they seem to come in for military style landings, hovering right above my head and the heads of others as they prepare to land. I’ve always felt like there's no need to make an excessive avoidance as they won’t connect, but a number of people have informed me that they have felt the claw/talon/foot of a pigeon upon their head in recent times. I wonder where the line will be. At the moment, we seem to live in peace with pigeons, even if they appear to cause the occasional nuisance to some pedestrians, most people just seem to let them get on with things. I recently saw a child chasing some pigeons and the child appeared to be gently reprimanded by their parent. I think this is a lovely demonstration of our innate care. On one hand, the parent likely asked the child to stop chasing the pigeons because either they carry germs which they do not want their child to inherit, or that the quickly dispersing pigeons may disgruntle other people in the vicinity, but I also like to believe that there is a part of the parent who is asking the child to not overly complicate the pigeons' lives, which in reality, is an act of care and compassion.
This human core of care and compassion is something I feel when I attend yoga classes. I recently attended hot yoga, and like many other yoga classes, there is a lovely feeling within the room for each and every class. I’d tried yoga at home and whilst it was enjoyable, the feeling of positive united connection and energy which comes from collective group activity is a great feeling. Yoga encourages people to be compassionate to themselves which, though for some that may sound almost hippy-esque, is something I try to carry out every day and it is something that I believe brings an ultimate sense of peace to our lives. I have come across a range of scientific research which demonstrates the benefit of self and other compassion on our brains and subjective well-being, but it is by truly experiencing it within yourself that you may get the greatest evidence. Next time you feel angry at yourself, perhaps take a moment to hold off from beating yourself up, just remove all thoughts, look at the feeling of anger within yourself, perhaps a fiery stomach or a pounding heart, and literally smile, remove the self-judgements and just observe the feeling for as long as possible. Smile, internally and externally. Offer yourself a deep breath and an internal pat on the back. It is from being kind and compassionate to ourselves that we can extend to others, which in turn reflects back to our own well-being. Our internal thoughts can be quick to self-criticise, which subsequently can lead to the criticism of others, making both us and the other feel bad. Sometimes both we and others get things wrong, and this can be reviewed and learned from, in a peaceful manner. If you angrily shout to somebody, “don’t do that, it’s wrong”, they may stop what they're doing, but they may also feel foolish for being shouted at. It is possible that this feeling may even lead them to continuing their act or feeling anger towards you. You may then feel raged by their action and by their response, and the cycle continues. If we merely gently say, “I’m not sure that it is the best thing to do, what do you feel, how come you are doing it?” We bring an open and peaceful sense to proceedings which will truly pave the way for learning. We may even learn something from the other which is of use to ourselves. If we can reach a point where each of our actions is based on not intentionally causing harm to others or to ourselves, I believe we will each find the core peace with us. This process of self-compassion is not a quick one, especially if we have become used to self-defeating thoughts. So take time with it; be careful not to beat yourself up for beating yourself up. There is a compassion in the world that unities us with the pigeons, you deserve it too.