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He, the Hummingbird

Greetings I wanted to share with you a recent occurrence that got me thinking a lot about how we name things, perceive things and create our world. This also affects not only our physical movements but also our mental and emotional movements.

Last week I was reading while appreciating the wonderful scent from irises in my backyard. I heard a buzzing sound and at first I was a worried as I thought it was a huge bug but when I turned to look I was truly surprised to see a beautiful Hummingbird! Just a few feet away. Ahhh. I love when beauties like this get close.

What a treat he was to me and the dear gals, the lovely flowers, drew him to me. This was all occurring while I was reading the exact chapter from the book Braiding Sweetgrass on “learning the grammar of animacy”!! That was very synchronistic and when these synchronicities happen I pay attention to the hidden messages. Or in this case, not so hidden!

I had to take another read of what I had just been digesting after my dear Hummingbird’s appearance. He was there right at the part where a student was expressing that we can't say he or she when describing things in nature because that would be anthropomorphism. As biology students, they are taught not to ascribe human characteristics to a study object because of the potential loss of objectivity. Another student argued that things would be different and better on the planet if nothing was an “it”. The student pointed to the lack of respect and increased separation with this more distant language. And I happen to agree.

For years I’ve spoken to animals and plants and trees and any part of nature as a he or a she. Hummingbirds for me have always held a message of joy, buzzing around and drinking up the nectar of good things. Perhaps the joy here comes from a broader understanding that all things are beings as the book pointed to. I used to laugh and think it was funny that I'd call objects out in nature a he or she. It made me and others smile probably because of this increased connection. This relatedness with nature does creates more depth, connection, respect, and awe. Go ahead and try it the next time you are watering a plant at home, or taking a walk at a park. Name something he or she and see how that feels and what changes. Try to think of how that animal, plant, or being in nature has given gifts to you and the world. Think of how you can or have given back to them, even with a simple shift in your language.

After reflecting I see that it's not funny calling trees or animals he or she. I realize that my instinct to do that is actually natural, just as the indigenous peoples have done for so long though their languages. Actually, what's left of them. The book describes the horrors and deterioration of many tribes’ languages and cultures because they were moved so often. Worse yet, families were separated with children being taken to the schools to unlearn and forget their language and culture. I heard of terrible abuse and as shared in the news, many children were murdered.

The book shares many great ideas, written by an indigenous woman, who is also a scientist on how combining different cultures, ideas and knowledge can makes life richer. And, if we allow it, how it can help us become wiser.

We can help a more encompassing viewpoint just like the indigenous people by adopting the he and she descriptors to all things that are beings in nature. This creates more safety, care and respect. I recall one of my friends who happens to be First Nations describe how they would bless and thank an animal before and after taking its life, if it was to be given. They would listen and act on what they received. This is a very honoring way which connects us to that which we take and reminds us also that we must give. It is a dance between all parties in this thing called life. Like the dear gals, the irises, who attracted that handsome bird. We want those guys to be around to spread more joy!

The trees give us oxygen, and shade. We can honor them by realizing their worth as a he or she. The plants that give us food, the birds that distribute the seeds which give us more trees and life. The elements which provide water and sun are needed for our existence. The actions that led to slavery or harming other people, perhaps could have been prevented if people remembered our connection and never reduced any human or group of humans to an “ it” or thinking in “us vs them” mentality. Many atrocities have happened between people when we forget that we are all connected.

If you have gotten this far, I want to thank you and tell you how this pertains to movement. Our perceptions of the world affect how we see ourselves and how we interact with the world. If we are coming from a place of connection, then we will also move more connected to the earth and others around us knowing that each and every one of us have an important role to play. Watching the hummingbird whose tongue and neck need to reach to get the nectar, hummingbirds can teach us how to be more flexible in our upper spine and to use our whole selves as we move to enjoy the goodness in life.

My gift to you is a Hummingbird lesson:

  1. Start by lying on your back. Bend you knees and remember to not go into pain (or more pain) during this movement exploration

  2. Interlace your hands behind the back of your head begin to lift and lower your head. Not like you would doing a crunch or a sit up but try to keep your forehead and your chin parallel to one another. Breathe as you do this and notice what moves in your chest and in your upper back.

  3. Try sticking our your tongue as you lift your head and draw your tongue back in as you lower your head. Rest.

  4. Start again, this time with your head turned a little to the right and do the same lifting and lowering of your head. Once you notice how that feels, finding a comfortable range, eventually add your tongue moving directly out of your mouth as you lift your head and back in as you lower your head. Rest.

  5. Now turn your head slightly to the left begin to lift and lower your head in the way that we have been doing keeping your forehead level with your chin and breathing. Notice what's moving in the rest of yourself. How does this movement of your head connect to your trunk, or your low back, or your chest? What are you doing with your breathing? Now go ahead and play with the sticking the tongue out as you lift the head and bringing the tongue back in as you lower the head.

  6. Come up to sitting in a chair and take a straw or the end of a pen and place it on the tip of your tongue. Stick your tongue forward and move your head forward to push the pen away from you move your head around in different directions as if you were trying to move the straw tip into a flower. Think of being like the hummingbird and you are trying to get some good nectar for lunch!

  7. Notice how you feel once you get up and walk around. What’s changed in your vision, your jaw, where you gaze is? How are you standing and walking? Is anything new coming into your awareness?

  8. Perhaps trying on a different perspective, like the language of animacy, and thinking of the dear hummingbird can create more closeness, freedom and joy.

Feldenkrais what’s after flexible bodies, but flexible minds. It’s interesting that when we allow a shift in perceptions of our mind, there are changes in our bodies. His work is a healing work that really is based in the greatest movement of all, love.

How does using a new perspective like the language of animacy change how you think, feel, and move thought your life? I would love to hear from you!

To Wellness! Lisa Ponichter-Stanley


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