“One of the key practical lessons of modern neuroscience is that the power to direct our attention has within it the power to shape our brain’s firing patterns, as well as the power to shape the architecture of the brain itself.” –Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation
There it was, a young dove dragging its wing. The bird was active though, pecking the earth excitedly, finding small seeds. I will trap it in my hat, I thought, and bring it to an animal rescue shelter. Oh, but the long-planned-for talk I was to have along the Sacramento River with my friend would have to be sidelined as half the day would be taken up with this task.
Finally though, it was not the imagined time spent that nixed the idea of my taking action or any fault of empathy in me. It was that the bird, though unable to fly, seemed perfectly content in its environment. Bushes nearby formed suitable cover; the earth was soft so that seeds could be easily scratched up and other birds nearby flitted and fed nearby, giving it company. It was busy scratching and eating.
For the time being, I would let the dove be. I’d have my talk. If the dove got eaten by some predator or picked up by another person wanting to bring it to a shelter, so be it. And when our discussion was finished, if the bird was still there, I would take it and find help.
I broke a pattern then–of trying to save everything. Having been rescued from death as a baby when an emergency surgery was performed to correct pyloric stenosis, a stomach blockage, I had what many would say was an obsession with rescuing everything. Once I recall spending so much time saving insects struggling on the surface of the pool water that I missed my entire workout swim that day.
But some situations in nature are not meant to be interfered with. Sometimes discretion is key. Examining an automatic impulse can be psychologically healthy, even personally transformative. After my friend and I climbed up onto the green from the river bank where we’d had our tête-à-tête, the dove was nowhere to be seen. Go well, little dove, I bade her. Peace to you. Peace to me.