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Anxiety, Worry, Stress: Living in the Moment

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 4th 2011

Of Life, Living and the Osprey's Nest

As I read the many messages, questions and emotional comments written by some of our readers on Mental Help Net, I am always struck by how depressed, hopeless and angry they are. Too often, among these depressed individuals, are some who embrace death instead of life. A very few of them see death as an escape from a painful existence. In addition, they don't believe they are important to anyone else in the world, even though they have family, friends and children. They are convinced that they are worthless and no one would miss them.

The Osprey Nest:

I enjoy getting out and walking in the park. It is something I like to do by myself, so I can leave the world behind and be in touch with nature.

Recently, I looked up and noticed a very large nest high up in a dead tree. Two large, predatory birds were attending to the nest. They were beautiful, with white breasts and the typical appearance of Ospreys. Ospreys are skilled fisherman, majestically soaring through the sky, suddenly swooping down into the water to retrieve their prey. These are magnificent creatures.

What became intriguing to me was the dramatic unfolding of the fight for life that I observed day after day. Though they couldn't be seen, the nest was filled with eggs that the parent Ospreys took turns caring for. One parent would guard or sit on the nest while the other hunted for food to share.

I decided to learn what I could about the Osprey by doing a Google search. I learned that the male and female form a life time bond with one another, returning to the same place each year to build a new nest and start a new family.

Continuing my walks and observations, there came a day when I heard chirping coming from the tree. At that moment, one of the parents came soaring through the sky with food in her talons. She landed on the nest and began feeding the chicks who showed their excitement with agitated squawking. Unfortunately, the actual feeding was impossible to see because of the depth of the nest.


I asked myself why, as these birds fight hard to stay alive, raise chicks and protect them until they can fend for themselves, do some humans embrace death instead of life? The Osprey and other living things fight to stay alive. They don't question the value of their lives. They live in the moment, they survive, and, as a result, they guarantee the future of their species.

Mindful Living:

It occurred to me that we have a lot to learn from the Ospreys. As Thich Nhat Hanh says in his book, "The Miracle of Mindfulness," it is important to live in the now, without thinking and worrying about everything.

As I watched the Osprey nest, I left behind all of my worries and cares. I was lost in the moment, enthralled by the miracles of life as they unfolded before me. I believe that for the first time in my life, I really understood what Thich Nhat Hanh, and his American student, John Kabbat-Zinn, author of "Full Catastrophe Living," really meant by mindfulness and living in the moment.

It's not only chemical imbalances, childhood traumas, taking medication and going to psychotherapy, I believe we think too much, live in the past and future too much and lose sight of the present.

Be mindful, go to the park and watch nature, look up at the sky. Whether it's winter or summer, take in nature and the moment. You will never have that moment again, so, as Hanh says, embrace it now. You can read the books mentioned above and begin learning mindfulness and how to apply it to your life no matter how depressed you may be. It is something all of us need to do.

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Death is part of life too - Karin - Mar 6th 2011

The Osprey's nest story is a good example of how to let your mind be occupied and focussed on something else. How to remain in the moment as you watch with full attention to what is going on...

But when you are trapped in depression your mind is not yours to direct. It is obsessed with focussing on the negative. It tortures you with all that is wrong and useless about the world and yourself. It tells you not to care. Like poison running through your veins it takes over and makes one feel chained to the sense of failure.

If one of the chicks had fallen out of the nest, let's say because it was the weakest and the stronger ones nudged it out. It would have fallen to it's death and the parents would have had to accept this and continue with the chicks, who were strong and able. As humans we consider this to be part of life, sad, but part of the way things are.....

When as a human, you know you are weak and flawed and unable to continue because you have tried hard and relentlessly to find a way to 'get on with it'. You do wish you could silently fall. Just like the weakest chick.

But this death is not considered a part of life, but cowardly and un-natural, selfish even.

Perhaps, life, living is not for everyone. Sometimes the sense of never being free in your mind is too much to live for.

Perhaps some of us should be able to just fall quietly and quickly, as part of human life.



reflections of living and the nest - 王丽丽 - Mar 6th 2011

i came across this website this weekend, i love it. 

i am a chinese college student, with some needs in mental health. after some workshops i felt better now, though i still dont have friends at school, i do have some from the workshop. i am somehow alone but not lonely... them i realized i am lonely when alone... anyway i love this website, and i love this articaL.

though i dont feel good of myself before, i never thought of a death to cope with all problems. i should say when you are lonely, or not feeling good, a friend is needed. friends are needed all through your life, even if you lack of money, or you lost someone you love... as we can live our life by ourselves. 

nobody loves you more than yourself. 

you are the conquer of life, your own life. do not think of controlling others, but do seize your own life. 

you are the only one to make yourself feel good. 

every thing will come to you as you wished.

the ospreys nest - paul - Mar 5th 2011

im so glad i read you articlei have been feeling so, so down latley, and struggling to come to terms with life. and the meaning of it all. i used to be so focused on what i thought i wanted the big house fast cars, boat, blah, blah, blah, and when i got it it made me worse ??

now going back to the nest, it is only what is now that is really important because we can treasure that is so short to be worrying about all thye material things in life they are only, water, and a roof over our heads is the most important things we need so i am going toput it all into perspective and start living....thanks again



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