FEATURE: How Bees Teach Mindfulness

Feature by Katie Randall, Environmental Manager, AXA PPP Healthcare 

I took up bee keeping as an initiative to do at work  (I am an environmental manager) and thought it would be a great opportunity to help the plight of the honey bee whilst being really hands on and a great way to promote employee engagement. I had no idea at the time how calming it was and how much bee keeping teaches me about mindfulness.

Beekeeping is incredibly relaxing – you need to work slowly and calmly in order to avoid agitating the colony too much and working at a slow pace is an immediate mindfulness trigger. You also have to work methodically – you can’t just jump about without any order to how you are going through the frames, you need to either work from right to left or from the middle to the outside and vice versa. The reason for needing an order is all to do with the bees themselves and it is through understanding the social structure of a colony and understanding the different jobs that the bees have that I have learnt how they are teaching me mindfulness and I am making a connection.

When working with my bees I am totally immersed in what is going on right in front of me and what I am doing. This could have something to do with the droning or humming emitted from an open hive – not dissimilar to the ‘ooooooom’ in meditation – a constant low level hum of 1000’s of bees beating their wings, which is truly mesmerizing.

I find I am in a much calmer place, none of the usual stresses of my day are bothering me and it sets off my inquisitive trigger – I want to understand for example why the queen isn’t laying on the outer frames or why the colony has felt the need to create emergency queen cells, I wonder what the bees are thinking about me! I am also totally aware of my surroundings – my hearing is heightened as a bee keeper can tell a lot about the mood of a colony from changes in pitch of their hum (this can be invaluable as it can indicate it might be time to close the bees up and leave them for another day….), I am aware of how the hundreds of bees flying around me are behaving and I am absorbed in watching how the bees help each other.

My thinking is much more focused and I am happy when working with my bees and I would recommend anyone taking up the offer of visiting a hive if you get the offer – it may just surprise you with how much more in touch you feel!

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