Many will be familiar with the rise of mindfulness in the western world, a meditative technique borrowed from Buddhism and frequently promoted as a tool for improving our mental wellbeing. Connecting more closely with the natural world has also been promoted for reducing stress and anxiety. In a sea of self-help books it would be all too easy to dismiss The Art of Mindful Birdwatching as just another title competing in an already overcrowded arena; to do so however, would be doing this attractively bound volume an undeserved injustice.
Claire Thompson, who works for BirdLife International, is passionate about using mindfulness as a route for helping people to build a closer relationship with nature. In The Art of Mindful Birdwatching she elegantly weaves a narrative full of her own delightfully documented encounters with birds in amongst sage guidance on using mindfulness to help readers become deeply aware of the present moment. Following Claire's clearly described exercises has the potential to lead one from mere identification to making deeply insightful observations into the life of birds.
Each chapter tackles the rewards to be gained from observing birds within different habitats, starting with making more of our common garden visitors, to the effortless flight of offshore Gannets and onwards to mountains where species diversity is low but patience can reap unique rewards. Insightful maxims drawn from a variety of sources punctuate Claire's sensitive directions for re-engaging our senses, unshackling ourselves from self-criticism and cultivating gratitude.In short, this delightful and easy read carries a clear message for those simply seeking the next bird – please slow down, enjoy the journey and all the amazing birds with which you share it.