I’ve practised yoga for years to combat my hectic lifestyle and to be honest whilst I enjoy the active intense flow; the best part for me is the Savasana, the final resting pose, allowing me to melt into the mat, totally relaxed and calm of mind. I love this.
I took up beekeeping 6 years ago and found that this hobby is very relaxing too but it wasn’t until last year that it dawned on me that, what I was doing was actually very mindful (a bit like yoga) Mindfulness can be both formal or informal practices such as a formal meditation or carrying out daily activities such as walking, mindfully. Being mindful means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations and surrounding environment, basically it’s just about being present. Not worrying about the past or being anxious about the future.
Both meditation and beekeeping ask us to exist completely in the present moment, to be calm when surrounded by chaos and to trust ourselves and nature. When we meditate, we watch our presence by focusing on the breath and if we get lost or distracted, we carefully return to the rhythm of our inhales and exhales. Likewise, when I’m beekeeping, I have an object of focus, but instead of my breath, it’s the bees — the sound of the hive and the natural flow of these incredible insects.
Photography by Sue Wilkinson
When entering the hive, you must enter their space with stillness and respect and you should have a focus on why you are entering it. Is it to find the queen, see if she is laying, look for queen cells or check they have sufficient stores?. You should be methodical and calm and remain focused on the task in hand although; I find it difficult to think of anything else when I’m working with my bees. I find I am truly present and in a flow.
Mindfulness encourages observation and acceptance of thoughts, feelings and sensations, which in turn leads to a greater understanding of the feelings as they occur, just as your breathwork during meditation gives you a focus point for the present moment; bees with their natural flow and their gentle buzz can give you a focus point too.
Just watching the bees floating in and out of the hive going about their business is so relaxing. Their gentle hum and opening the hive is an assault on the sense. The smell of the hive, the wax cells and different coloured pollen, the sight of the number of bees working away focused on their jobs, the warmth that is generated by their vibrations and energy to the colour and taste of the honey that they have made. It is a truly mind-blowing and awesome experience, that I will never tire of. People are afraid of bees but a honeybee does not sting unless she has to if she feels threatened, like when the hive is being invaded (by me), because she will die if she does. Her stinger is covered with barbs and gets torn from her body when it lodges in human skin, pumping bee venom until it's removed.
I think my bees recognise me, they are calm and I very rarely feel threatened or get stung nor do I have to smoke them to calm them. I have heard it said that if you visit the hive without fear or greed and become fully present, the bees begin to trust you, you are allowed into their world, which is one of care and beauty. Honeybees live a life of profound generosity and when they take from the landscape, they are giving back at the same time. I feel privileged to be caring for them. They take care of their community. There are good lessons to be learnt from the honeybee.
Written by Sue Wilkinson