"Taking Refuge in our inextricable identity with the living Earth ..."
Linus, the cockatoo, bites the cage for two reasons. Firstly, he's bored. Secondly, it gets my attention. Whether I want to give it or not, I'm instantly magnetized to the sound of it. Doh! Not that! Rust. Rust. Rust. Beneath that teflon coating is steel and future rust.
The first thing he did when he came to my house was dismantle one of the bars of the cage. It made such a deep impression on him that I was so emotionally invested in keeping him from doing this that now he wakes me up this way every morning --because it works! I'm instantly energized. I've been known to sneak downstairs to see exactly what he is doing. Is he biting the cage or taking a quarter inch hunk out of one of his perches?
"Really? That's how you want to connect?" I ask him feeling a little vexed when I see him doing it again. Even I can see that I am putting a lot of energy into doing something about this behavior--moving perches, moving cages, hanging toys, changing the room and its occupants relationships to one another in space. I know, it sounds subtle, but it works.
Now my macaw is doing it. Tick, tick, tick. There's only one way to stop these birds from being so bad. It is to keep my emotions perfectly smooth when it happens. Not even a tiny bit of interest can escape. Power is a reward. I am handing it over and they are leading me with it. Grr! It's the same thing my brother used to do to make me mad enough to chase him. Aggravation is a form of humor. It's a way of having fun in a world of cages and an ocean of sameness. I've got to turn things around.
To get them to follow me to a new game, I have to make them forget about how it effects me. So the answer isn't in controlling them. It's in controlling me. I've had years of practice with this. Before they knew and trusted me, that's how I got all of them to stop biting me. This technique takes time, but the faster and better I can do it, the less I'll be reinforcing what I don't want to see.
I begin working on the macaw first because she's just starting this business. I can already get her to stop after just a few minutes because the whole reasons she's doing it isn't working.
I leave the cockatoo cage open and start washing dishes in response to him doing it. He asks me what I am doing and before long he makes a new game of hanging on the outside of the door --which he hasn't done before. See? A new behavior is already starting to manifest. The solution is not so far away now that I've identified the problem and created a strategy, but I don't JUST ignore them. I understand that the underlying reason they're doing this is because they want is more attention. They want more than ever and for no reason at all. So that's how I give it to them-- more and more for no reason--unassociated with this drama.
This is not about reason. It's about empathy. I feed our connection and before long they'll stop aggravating me to get what they're needing and our relationship will be deeper still. They're easy to love! And this transformation is what our hearts are for. This is the work it does best.
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