Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.George Eliot, Mr Gilfil’s Love Story
A warm welcome to week 7 of Haiku for You, the interactive blog-series that for 12 weeks, takes you on a guided tour of how to achieve daily mindfulness by writing your very own haiku. There is no need to feel anxious if you are new here. Every day is a new experience for us all and we are all learning together. This is key to feeling comfortable in our own minds.
If you would like to read further information about my blog-series, feel free to have a glance at my introductory post, which explains the inspiration behind it all. For those who have been publishing their haiku in the comments sections, I am so grateful for being given a glimpse into your mindful moments and I look forward to reading more over the coming weeks.
Now, are you all ready to begin this session?
Have you found a look-out point, a seat in the garden or a view through a window?
Take a slow, deep breath in …
…and then back out.
I ask you this because this week, we are going to talk about those with the beaks, snouts, paws, whiskers and waggling tails that we cannot ignore:
Thoughts about Animals
Did you know, that not only is nature helpful for our well-being, but more recently, studies have proved that the presence of animals can benefit our mental health? Animal-assisted therapy is truly finding its feet throughout hospitals and homes, as it aids rehabilitation for people, and generally promotes a soothing atmosphere for those who are struggling with their mental health.
What makes animal therapy so effective?
The presence of a non-judgemental animal can improve our confidence, as well as provide company in times of loneliness. Even the sensation of repetitively stroking a soft, warm coat has proved to be calming for those who battle stress and anxiety.
Dogs, for example, can provide an ambiance of safety and security, as well as being mood-lifters thanks to their naturally upbeat temperaments. They can also provide us with an additional purpose. Whether we are taking a dog for a walk, placing a bowl out to feed a visiting four-legged friend, or sprinkling some birdseed, a creature somewhere is gratefully flourishing due to our involvement.
Where to find your own animal therapy
When we talk about being in the company of animals, this definitely doesn’t solely refer to pets. Don’t worry if you don’t have any! (Neither do I.) However, there is an abundance of life all around us every day: the birds who visit your windowsill while you work, the snails that leave their tracks along the flagstones, the yellow and black striped caterpillars who wriggle up and down the fence, or the butterflies that grace your wildflowers with their fluorescent presence. It could be next door’s cat, a stealth hedgehog you only catch a glimpse of or just the unwelcome summer spider who pops up in the bathroom every morning.
And don’t forget, these creatures may even be in need of some mindfulness too. Look out for their patterns; the way a spider spins its web, or the way ants work in teams. Think of how you have your own similar habits.
Observe an animal or creature, no matter how small, and consider that the act it’s partaking in is so important to its life. Is it a bird picking up food that it will carry back to its nest? Is it a squirrel hiding nuts to be discovered in winter? Where does the cat travel during the day, I wonder? Try and put yourself in someone else’s paws.
Mindfulness and animals
Watching the world through an animal’s eyes can help us detach from ourselves for a little while, which we all know is essential sometimes. Animals are so refreshingly honest about their intentions that it can be entertaining to watch them relish in their successes. This could be a cat playing with a ball of yarn, a dog receiving a pat on the head, or a bird finally catching that wriggly worm.
We could consider ourselves in a similar way. If we simplify our actions into what we want and what we do, the world can immediately feel less overwhelming. Mindfulness helps us confront the world step by step, rather than in a grandiose and sometimes unachievable way.
It is said that a dog lives for the present day. We could definitely learn a few things from our furry companions. This is why mindfulness is so important. Practise focusing on positive moments that bring you meaning and pure enjoyment or comfort. What are they? It is different for everyone. There is a whole ecosystem beneath our feet; a world of moles’ tunnels, insects and worms, and they are all interacting with their piece of earth, giving it the importance it deserves at all times.
Haiku about animals: some examples of my own
Month of quarantine next door’s cat claws at the glass, her fur is unkempt.
Two cats crossing paths - paws licked for twenty seconds; social distancing.
Pecking at their corpse - another branch has broken; magpies stand in suits.
How to write your own haiku about animals
Exercise duration: approximately 30 minutes
1. Find a viewing point where you can observe a living creature
If it is small and wild, be silent not to disturb it.
2. How does it look?
Does it have feathers? Does it have a fur coat? How many legs does it have? How does it move around?
3. Note what sound this creature makes
Does it make a sound? Does it squeak, chirp or bark?
4. How does this particular moment feel?
What atmosphere does the living creature create? What mood does it express? Happy, sad, mischievous, angry and persistent? Does it know you are there?
5. List down three positives about this moment
How does the creature interact with the world around it? What matters to it in that moment?
6. It’s time to write!
For this exercise, you can either choose to write from the perspective of your chosen animal or use the above techniques to write your haiku about animals through your own eyes.
So, close your eyes and take another deep breath in …
and then back out …
What would someone think if they were observing you?
This question is not about judgment. It is actually about the opposite. We are a part of nature just like the animals we see, and we have a right to feel just as uninhibited as the red-breasted robins or the singing sparrows. Don’t be afraid if you are nudged out of the comfort of your own nest for a while. It could be an opportunity to spread your wings and fly!
So, if we feel small in an enormous world, that’s okay. These moments of mindfulness are intended to temporarily dissolve our responsibility. For now, during this session, we are just humans taking part in an act of self-care. The rest of the time, this can involve the way we eat, sleep, and live in a way that makes us happy and most importantly, healthy.
Thank you for taking the time to join me in appreciating the side of nature that barks, meows and cuckoos. Next week, I promise to equip you with another new theme for much more mindfulness! (But I’ll keep it a secret for now.)
So, how are animals going to influence you this week? Ruffle those feathers, purr when the world changes brushstrokes and whistle a wonderful tune no matter who is listening. Most importantly, squirrel away on paper. Remember, we are fascinating creatures in our own right.
Now, let’s haiku away!
If you are happy to, please leave your beautiful haiku about animals in the comments section below each post.
See last week – Week Six: Haiku about Dreams