Skip to content

Observing without Labeling

This morning, there were two creatures observing me from the tree directly outside my window. This tree is approximately three stories tall and has sturdy branches with shiny green leaves. I don’t know its name. I like looking at it and noticing how the leaves move gently sometimes.

The two birds were both the same species, a blackbird with a hook-shaped beak. First one blackbird, then the other, chose to fly closer to where I was standing, which was on the balcony overlooking the tree. I like to be outside in the early morning wherever I am. 

The birds spontaneously began to create a sound over and over, like a caw-caw noise. There was not much else to be heard over the bird calls in that moment. I could describe the vibe like a reprimand, not a melodic birdsong, if I were thinking in terms of what I have been told is a pretty birdsong and a harsh one. That’s what I see as dualism, applied to interpretations of animal sounds.

I noticed this. My response was a feeling of slight annoyance. Noticed that, too. And kept with the observing, inside and out.

This cawing they did while craning their heads to the side and looking at me (birds can be seen to have more wide-set eyes on the sides of their heads; I saw these two turning to one side when they appeared to want a clearer view of something, like a human on a balcony). 

Before, I might have tried to shoo them away. To get that noise to change or go away. But I didn’t do that today. I just watched and listened to the scene playing out before me. And the scene within me, at the same time. It’s possible.

We may be conditioned by our surroundings, our environment, to react to things that appear less than wonderful to our perceptions. The reaction may feel like an urge to change the scene to be more this way or that way, according to our ideal imagination. 

Imagination can be used for amazing creative purposes, but we can face this: we don’t always use it that way. Sometimes, we imagine how things would be better if they were different. The “grass is greener” saying comes to mind. This, in my experience, is a freeway to suffering. It just doesn’t make sense to me anymore to use imagination this way. I no longer want to waste time wishing for something to be different, which in my Heart I feel is not why we are here.

Now, there is a different way of seeing things from the lens of embracing all things as they are. Not trying to control anything or change anyone (including animals such as blackbirds). This is like shining a floodlight onto my own imagination, my feelings, my thoughts. Seeing my conditioning for what it is, and not fighting reality with denial or attempts to alter it. 

Today, there was just seeing two birds being themselves. Even in all the noise they were creating. When I drop labels, I feel better. I’m also probably more fun to be around, which means I may get to relate more with others. Which I consider a precious gift to myself.

We can think about how deeply our conditioning goes to see how the mind wants us to label all phenomena as good, bad, right, wrong, pretty, ugly, harsh, melodic, and other things. Just observing this tendency feels like loosening knots inside, at least to me. So I stay with it. 

The result, as I notice, has been more peace inside, even as I see when I have these tendencies to want to use labels. Things arise sometimes. But I have learned through experience that labels don’t work for creating more space within for unconditional warm regard across all distinctions. And that’s when the so-called storyline fades away. Which feels like setting myself free from interpretation with a ripple effect that I see, which releases any tales and labels that the mind spun about other beings, too. So the result has been more peace, freedom, and space for creativity and love.

And that feels like relief, to me.