Lessons on Mindfulness from a Happy Cockatiel

What I learned about life from my bird

Posted Mar 25, 2019

H Finlay-Morreale
Source: H Finlay-Morreale

Meet Kiwi: She is a lutino cockatiel. She is 9 months old and was hand-raised before being adopted by my husband and me.

She is a cheerful, playful, energetic presence in our home. Before she arrived I had no idea about the life lessons she would demonstrate to us.

Kiwi wakes up each day under the sheet covering her cage and eagerly rings her toy bell to be let out. She likes to spend mornings with us repeatedly trying to sample our coffee. She certainly doesn’t need the caffeine. She never wakes up grumpy or moaning about her to-do list. Each day is a new gift in her eyes.

Recently Kiwi’s nails got too long and talon-like. My husband restrained her in a towel and I clipped them. I got a little too close to the quick and she started bleeding. She flapped around and blood got all over her feathers. I was very alarmed, a little blood is a big deal in a 100-gram bird. She was alarmed too, but not as much as I was. My husband ran for some styptic and we stopped the bleeding. We finished the trim and released her from her towel burrito. Was she fearful? Mad at us? Wanting to retreat? Nope. She hopped to my husband’s arm, perched, and wanted to hang out with us. Whatever happens to her, even negative, is gone as she faces the new and present moment. If the present moment is happy, she is happy, even if the preceding one was traumatic. What resilience.

Kiwi has no anxiety whatsoever. She is curious about every living creature and wants to befriend everyone. Houseguests, if willing, will be perched on by Kiwi as she grooms their beards and glasses. We also have a pet hedgehog, Apache, and Kiwi has tried to groom his quills and has licked him on his nose. He is anti-social and could do without this attention. To Kiwi, everyone or everything is an equal opportunity to make fast friends. She will explore new environments, new objects, new people, and new foods. Everything is a new adventure and a possible toy. She delights in a variety of objects—twist ties, cotton swabs, velcro strips, and earrings. The mundane to us becomes a feature of delight for her, sometimes with humorous results. Last weekend, I was painting and took her out afterward. Although I had put away the canvas, I had forgotten that the palette still held drying paint. Kiwi hopped into it and dabbed her beak in. The next 30 minutes was me and my husband frantically trying to catch her, which she thought was a great game. She bravely let me wash her down and swab out her beak. Even after all this she wanted more playtime and jumped onto my arm to spend more time with me.

Perhaps we could all stand to be a little more like Kiwi. Greeting each morning with delight. Eager. Friendly. Having no preconceived notions that get in the way of making friends. Appreciating every moment as it comes. Bravely meeting new challenges and adventures. Finding delight in the everyday.