Nourishing the Way: Feeding the Birds

Excerpt from The Magic Ten and Beyond by Sharon Gannon

The secret to wealth is to give generously to others. Whatever we give will come back to us many times over. 

Remembering God and being kind to others is the most important job that any of us has in this life. Being kind to others is the essential ingredient to being able to remember God— to be able to see ultimate reality. Developing kindness and compassion toward others is the sure way to happiness. But how does that work?, you might ask: Doesn’t being kind to others in a charitable way only benefit the others? No. Kindness benefits both the other and yourself. Others do not exist independently; they have come from your past karmas. They only exist in your life because you see them as existing. The Hindu sage Patanjali explains this in the Yoga Sutras: vastu- samye chitta-bhedat tayor vibhaktah panthah PYS IV. 15. This can be translated to mean: each individual person perceives the same object in a different way, according to their own state of mind and projections. Everything is empty from its own side and appears to you according to how you see it. 

When you are unkind to someone, you plant a seed to see unkindness. For example, you judge someone as a greedy person. As soon as you think or say that, you plant a seed that will ensure that greedy people will appear in your life. 

When you see yourself as poor, as not having enough to be able to share and be generous to others, you plant seeds for seeing yourself as a victim of poverty, and that will become your reality as you continue to nourish that perception of yourself. You have a choice: you can see yourself as an enlightened being or as a victim, but you can’t have both. If you eventually want to see yourself as an enlightened being, then begin that process by seeing others as holy beings. How you treat others will determine how others treat you; how others treat you will determine how you see yourself; how you see yourself will determine who you are. 

If you want to rid the world of greed, you must destroy the seeds in your own mind that cause greed to appear in the world. In other words, you must do your best to be kind to others— to take care of others as if they were your own self. Other- centeredness is the secret to overcoming the disease of self-centeredness. Put others before yourself. Be more concerned for the happiness of others than for your own happiness. This will dissolve otherness and reveal the oneness of being.

Kindness is the key to Yoga. 

Without the development of kindness toward others, you cannot make progress in yoga. Taking care of others is a sure way to increase your own happiness. When we do things with the intention, first and foremost, of making ourselves happy, we only increase our identification with our small self— our body, mind, and personality. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali cites this identification as the major obstacle to Yoga, calling it avidya, which means ignorance or mistaken identity. The yoga practices are designed to help you drop your self-centered concerns and become more other- centered. Being more other-centered expands your sense of self and increases true self-confidence. If you observe unhappy and depressed people you will find that they usually are self-obsessed. The key to uplifting yourself is to do what you can to uplift the lives of others. 

Why birds? When you feed the wild birds, you karmically assure that you will always have enough to eat and that wildness will not die inside you. Birds as well as other wild animals are having a hard time surviving in a world dominated by self-centered human beings. When you nourish wildness in another you keep it alive within yourself. Most people assume that birds, being wild, know how to take care of themselves, and feel that taking care of them should not be our responsibility. But the fact is, we have polluted with pesticides or destroyed most of the wild forests and fields where they might have been able to find an abundance of nourishing food. Birds require so little to live— a few good organic seeds and a couple of drops of fresh water— and while it may not be much, it can mean the difference between life and death for a feathered person. 

THE PRACTICE Before you feed yourself— even before you drink a cup of coffee or tea in the morning— feed the birds. Fill up a bird feeder outside your window or at least put some organic seeds or bread crumbs on a windowsill. If wild birds aren’t nearby, feed your cat, dog, or other family member.


Editor’s note: Published by permission of the author.


  1. Love this passage…2 years ago I started to feed the birds in my yard when I find out they needed food for energy to fly..everyday I put out food. Have a bigger flock everyday. I watch the birds and a warmth…peaceful feeling wash through me. Your passage has given my. Odd feeding new meaning. Thank you! World does need some kindnesses ….

  2. I feed the birds and the squirrels. What started out as one feeder is now two to accommodate all the hungry mouths. And recently I started feeding a feral cat who was stalking my birds.

  3. yes bird feeding is most beautiful way to connect the nature .after some time the birds start believing in you as your own family member ,an they will wait for you and in india we people say that if you feed an bird or dog daily …..

    very impressed , being me as an indian it was shocking to see how other countries strat following yoga and why shocking ? as the being birthplace of yoga is our india . and we are much far behind to practice this .yet there are much gurus who have great knowledge of yoga . some time when some one come to india i would like you to introduce such great yogis ,
    and as i am also a impressed because of you following such a beautiful way ,and i have started also a blog on yoga but i don’t know with a little knowledge of computer, would i be able to continue it or not.but i will try my best.

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