By Henry Koster, Queensland, Australia
My wife, Lorry, and I are blessed to live in the subtropics of Australia. A national park borders the northern and half of the eastern boundary of our property. Many a day as we wander around our acreage, I silently thank Spirit for the gift. I ask my inner spiritual guide, the Mahanta, to show me how to use this gift to serve life in the best possible way.
I’ve been feeding Australian magpies and butcher-birds that live around us now. These two species, with their predominantly black-and-white plumage, are well up in the food chain. I always thought of them as carnivores. Yet it seems they are better described as omnivores. Magpies are not inclined to be social, so it’s unusual for them to come close to humans even for food. Yet I found these birds enjoy cashews.
A male magpie and his mate visit regularly. The male takes a whole cashew out of my hand and beats it with his beak into smaller bits, so he can swallow the pieces. The female is still learning to trust that it’s safe to do the same.
Rainbow lorikeets tend to be very social birds and have joined in our morning feeding ritual. Their plumage is colorful, hence their common name of rainbow. To my delight, on their very first visit one of these lorikeets flew onto my arm. I held a cashew up between thumb and forefinger, and it sat on my hand happily nibbling.
Occasionally lorikeets perch on each of my hands. The magpies and butcher-birds look unimpressed at this. Maybe they wonder why my attention isn’t on them. So I flick the butcher-birds more cashews while telling the lorikeets how beautiful and brave they are.
One particular lorikeet is very much at home sitting on my hand. It feeds while giving out a contented sound, like a cat purring. The first time this happened, I acknowledged it as a love-gift from Spirit and the Mahanta. I was so thrilled that I said, “Thank you,” several times.
The HU has always been a gift that shifts my attention to love and the Divine, and I share this song with the lorikeet.
When I’ve finished singing HU and feeding the bird, I stoop and lower my hand to the ground, and the lorikeet hops off.
Learning about Love and Trust
I began to wonder, What is the deeper significance in this gift of feeding wild birds?
I had an upbringing in which my five siblings and I wanted for nothing, although it was always a struggle by my parents to make ends meet. My parents loved my brothers and sisters and me. I remain grateful for all they did for their children.
However, as a young man, I looked back on my childhood with some antipathy toward them. This is because much of the time my mother, especially, put conditions on her love. I always sensed that we enjoyed a deeper love from her when we were doing what she wanted. If not, she would subtly withdraw. Over the years my dear mother grew spiritually as she learned to love unconditionally.
Due to my parents’ early example, I found unconditional love to be difficult for me as an adult. I was always ready to offer help to others, though my help was nothing earth-shattering. Yet, I was unable to easily accept gifts of love.
Over the years I came to realize it actually took a lot of effort to maintain the protective cloak I wore to keep from receiving love. As I came to a better and more rounded understanding of what love could be, I began to surrender the barrier I’d erected. With that came a feeling of relief that enabled me to go deeper into giving and receiving unconditional love.
What the Rainbow Lorikeet Showed Me
When the lorikeet sat on my arm, completely unafraid, I knew it wanted food. However, the bird didn’t seem to have any conditions on what or how I fed it. I could hear it giving out a sort of muffled warble and contented song as it ate. It trusted me.
Besides enjoyment of the moment, I was beginning to see a greater gift in feeding the wild birds: I was witnessing unconditional love and trust in action.
In the course of my life, singing HU and other spiritual practices and disciplines taught in Eckankar have helped me learn the importance of love and service. As I absorbed more of the truth in the teachings, I was able to open my heart. With that came an automatic awakening to the importance and benefits of living free from old attachments.
Through my experiences with feeding the birds, I was reminded that there is always another spiritual step to take. I had always felt it would be great to have feral animals and birds trusting enough to be comfortable with me. Yet it never happened, likely because they didn’t sense safety. The rainbow lorikeets came to show me my heart has opened to have the experience of receiving their unconditional love and trust.
The rainbow lorikeets’ daring has given me a new level of trust in Spirit—a lesson in how to accept and receive love. The Mahanta has taken my awareness to a new level—with help from the lorikeets!
—Photos by Lorry Koster