They say that the veil between the mystic world and the waking world is thinnest just before dawn. That time just as the last inky darkness begins to fade up into powder blues and dusty pinks. The hour just before the light rises and paints the landscape anew with bright colours for another day. At this time, something magical begins to happen. Not only with light but with sound. Many will be familiar with early morning birdsong, but there is something quite mesmerizing about the chorus of birds, insects, and animals that begins each day in the African wilderness.
We have been told for years that it is important to start your day right. Create a routine. Eat a good breakfast. Drink some coffee. Exercise before the hustle and bustle of the day gets going. But more recently, there has been overwhelming evidence that how you spend the first hour of your day sets you up for the rest. And, what’s more, that starting your day in a mindful manner – ahead of any of the other more ‘normal’ practices or habits – helps that much more.
It’s certainly no secret that we are advocates for meditation and mindfulness here at Londolozi. In fact, we have just released two Inward Safari challenges in which we guide you through the basics of mindfulness and breathwork, interwoven with ancient animal wisdom. We even meet weekly as a small group and practice mindfulness together ourselves. It is a large part of what has kept us on the right track mentally and spiritually through this global pandemic.
Mindfulness can take many forms – so much so that almost anyone can find a way to be mindful no matter where they are in the world or how much time they have to dedicate to their practice. One such way that I have found particularly stimulating recently is tuning into the dawn chorus around me each morning. This practice of intense focus on one sense at a time (hearing) brings me into a deep state of clarity and focus. It allows me to get incredibly still while I listen. And, it is one of my favourite forms of sense-drenching (literally drenching your sense in something beautiful) as it allows my imagination to be included in a mindful way – not by wandering off into negative or distracting thoughts but by being included in the imagining of what the chorus looks like in my mind.
The benefits of meditation are numerous, and, at the same time, quite particular. Each person will feel the effects in a different way. One person might find that it creates a little more space in their emotional reaction time. Another might find stress levels decrease and happiness levels increase. Another might find their quality of sleep gets better. Another could see creativity rapidly increase, along with productivity. The science behind it is quite simple. Mindfulness and meditation cause the pituitary gland in your brain to secrete endorphins. Endorphins are ‘the feel-good hormone’, making us feel good physically and emotionally. Mindfulness and meditation also enhance activity in the area of your brain that’s associated with positive emotions and experiences – for some this means a decrease in depression and anxiety and a general increase in wellbeing, and it could even have an effect on pain tolerance. Mindfulness also works because of a concept called neuroplasticity – a term researchers gave to the way brain cells (neurons) grow and change because they are malleable (plastic). Neurons change regularly and are shaped by our experiences. This helps adults learn, adapt, and remember. Every time we experience something new, a new neural pathway forms, and if repeated, reinforces and strengthens the connections between brain cells. Because of the nature of our lives, this can sometimes mean that negative pathways are created and then reinforced by going through recurring stressful situations or any form of trauma. Most of our days (and I use the royal ‘our’ here) are spent coping or just getting through stress. Very little time is spent reinforcing the good parts of our lives. And that’s where meditation, mindfulness and – in particular today – immersing yourself in Londolozi’s dawn chorus comes in.
Now, I know that many of you are not in a position (right now) to experience nature’s symphony first hand. And that’s why I wanted to bring it to you, wherever you find yourself. The science is telling us that just by having images of nature, and natural sounds around you can affect heart rate and alter connections in the brain.
According to a new study, they physically alter the connections in our brains, reducing our body’s natural fight-or-flight instinct.
Natural sounds and green environments have been linked with relaxation and well-being for hundreds of years, of course. But the new research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, is the first to use brain scans, heart-rate monitors, and behavioral experiments to suggest a physiological cause for these effects. Source
Here are a few new practices to incorporate into the start of your day to bring the wilderness to you
Play the dawn chorus
You can either put this video on in meditation (either with closed eyes or soft focus) or you can put this on in the background as you begin your day.
Sign up for our Mindfulness challenge
Sign up for our Animal Wisdom challenge
Begin (and continue) a gratitude journal
Lose yourself (just for a few minutes) in our daily virtual game drives
I would love to hear if the practice of beginning your day with the dawn chorus has benefited you in any way. Until then, enjoy this small connection to Londolozi…