The Art of Mindful Birdwatching – By Claire Thompson | Leaping Hare Press | Hardback | June 2017 | 144 Pages | ISBN: 9781782404286

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The Publisher’s View: Through personal anecdote and expert insight, Claire Thompson of BirdLife International invites us on a mindful journey through gardens, cities, open country, forests, coasts and mountains to enjoy and learn from the magnificent beauty and diversity of the avian world.Who has never gazed enviously at a bird soaring through the sky? Or delighted in the uplifting tunes of nature’s songsters? Birds can do wonders for our hearts and minds – if we simply pay them attention. With The Art of Mindful Birdwatching, Claire Thompson reveals how the practice of mindfulness enriches our birdwatching experiences – and explores how birds are, in turn, the ideal inspiration for the practice of mindfulness. To Claire, bird flight is a symbol of freedom to soar through life without constraint, and mindfulness similarly enables us to invite freedom and happiness into our own lives.

The Author: Claire Thompson is a Conservation Programme Support officer for BirdLife International, the world leader in bird conservation. She worked for the World Land Trust, an international conservation organization which works to protect the world’s most biologically important and threatened habitats across the world. Claire leads retreats in mindfulness and nature across Europe, and is a fan of the kingfisher. She explores mindfulness at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre, and is the author of Mindfulness & the Natural World (Leaping Hare Press, 2013).

Fatbirder View: I never set out to harm anyone and as a writer myself I know that one puts a lot of oneself into a book. So, I’m going to be brief and start by saying this just isn’t my kind of thing. Don’t get me wrong, mindfulness has its place and I believe it’s part of my own way with birding. The trouble is, it’s very hard to talk about without sounding trite, or being pedantic or twee. The phrase is relatively new, but not the concept as it’s all about ‘being in the moment’, common or garden existentialism. As far as I am concerned, only two people have encapsulated the concept. W H Davies said all one really needs to say… ‘What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’ and Gerard Manley Hopkins lyrically wrote an almost Haiku without a middle line, saying ‘Glory be to God for dappled things’.Frankly, I don’t need an instruction manual for that and that’s how this comes across to me… I can’t help seeing hippies nodding their heads in my mind’s eye, spliffs in hand saying, ‘yeah, cool man’ or beatniks being equally mysterious and just as pretentious. Oops, I said I wouldn’t go on… so, if you like to be told how to experience and feel you might get along with this better than I. I’m sure you would think I missed the point and no doubt you will find it instructive and insightful and to be admired, whereas this old cynic just cringed a lot.

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