This metaphor comes from, Lorie, a member of our little meditation community in Burlington, Vermont. The insight came to her while on meditation retreat at IMS (The Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts).
We can understand the mind as a tree and thoughts as birds. Birds come and go to the branches of the tree. Some fleetingly, some with more persistence. Some birds will take up residence in the tree, build a nest in its branches and giving birth to more thoughts. Some birds may take up permanent residence.
Some birds have beautiful songs that soothe; other birds are shrill scavengers, annoying (or potentially so).
I don’t think my Wild Chickens could get into the tree, but crows certainly could. They are large, smart, and strident. Sneaking smart. Many of our stories are like that and we have to come to recognize, and accept, these crows in order to not be unduly influenced by them.
It’s easy to develop preferences for the sweet song birds over the shrill crows, but they are both our minds and both can be touched with mindful acceptance. Neither can be believed. Instead, acknowledge them as present and return attention to what is most relevant in this moment.