What Buzz the Bird Taught Me About Prayer

April 26, 2020

In this time of such upheaval, each moment landing with almost outlandish challenge and unprecedented feelings, how do we best utilize prayer—connection with that which is bigger than ourselves—most effectively, most skillfully?

I look to my Kripalu experience, my history living in the ashram. I look to the core values that, for 31 years, have carried me through the changes, challenges, and collapses around me and inside of me.

It was a different world then. Yet the core values of Kripalu got us through the upheaval of the breakdown of the ashram in 1995, and helped birth Kripalu as we know it today, a place of solace and connection for thousands and thousands of people worldwide. 

In 1991, I was young, eager to be “one with all,” committed to the teachings I didn’t really understand. Zealous and tender, I wanted to transcend my issues and land in the lap of the Divine.

Little did I know, I was already there.

My dearest companion, Buzz the Bird, was always on my shoulder. Small caged animals were somehow legitimate in the ashram. Buzz the Cockatiel came to me in a dream and manifested as the dearest feathery friend I could have imagined. She and I walked the Kripalu halls, attended team meetings, chanted om multiple times during those daily meetings, and, most importantly, welcomed animal-deprived guests. (This was before Buzz was asked to retire, as Kripalu’s commitment to professionalism increased.)

One day, just before Thanksgiving in 1991, in an attempt to cut her flight feathers to keep her safe and in the good graces of Kripalu's residents, I hit what's known as a blood feather, generating a blood bath. Buzzie stretched her wing and blood splattered against the wall. My heart stopped. I ran for a car, jacked up the heater, got her in her carrying case covered with numerous blankets (I was a young and obsessive animal companion-mom), and zoomed, breaking all speed limits, to the vet.  

Dr. Mike cauterized the feather, shook his head quietly, and said, “Truly, I don’t know if she’ll make it. Keep her warm and see how she does. You’ll know more in the morning.”

I’ll know more in the morning? That statement felt unacceptable to my terrified heart. Shaking, I drove us back to Shadowbrook.

I borrowed space heaters for my room, covered her cage in a multitude of blankets and assorted wraps, apologized to her and the universe a thousand times, prayed and sobbed and closed the bedroom door.  It was her room for the night.

Time to let go.

Sleep that night was impossibly evasive. Hands clenched in prayer, crouched on the bathroom floor, I feverishly sought words. What was the prayer? I learned that praying for what I wanted was not prayer—that was a Christmas/Chanukah list. How did I pray?

I recognized my preference:

Please, let Buzzie live.  
Please, help her to live.

But that was only preference. How might that wish be reframed more prayerfully, more skillfully? For the first time in my young prayer life, my preference emerged in relationship to God and Life, not separate from and demanding of It.

The pivotal, life-changing prayer that was given to me on that bathroom floor that night was:

God, Life, if it be your will, please keep Buzzie alive. And give me the courage to be present with whatever you give me.

When the gray morning softly descended on Shadowbrook, I staggered down the third-floor hallway toward my room, opened the door with trepidation, and cautiously made my way toward the many-layered birdcage, opening one layer at a time with bated breath.  

There sat Buzzie, alive and well, ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with me and my newly expanded, maturing prayer life.

Pretty birdie,” she said, the only words she knew and some of the best words the universe has ever offered me.

Buzzie the Bird, my spiritual teacher.

How do we pray during this pandemic? How do we beseech this upside-down universe to protect us, to shelter us and our loved ones from the virus, to support the planet’s healing?

What we want must be part of it. It has to be part of it. Kripalu Yoga, on and off the mat, opens the door to Divinity through the human moment. We must go through that human doorway. 

And yet, to weave surrender into it—to take the actions of the prayer, to offer it out, and to let go of the outcome—that is the yogic journey.

Here is a metta meditation I created one dark morning, waiting for the dawn to touch me. I offer it to your hearts. May it bring you peace, no matter what we are given.

Please, keep my loved ones well and safe.
Please, keep our Kripalu family wrapped in light.
Please, if it be your will, may the loss we receive be as limited, as contained as possible.
And give us the capacity to be present with whatever you give us.
Your will,
Not ours,
Be done.

Aruni Nan Futuronsky is a Kripalu Yoga teacher, life coach, and Legacy Faculty member for Kripalu R&R and Kripalu programs.

Full Bio and Programs