“Times of Change” – The year 2020 can be summarized with this buzz phrase heard countless times throughout the year.
A few months back, I received a notification from Headspace, the popular meditation app, prompting me to watch a video about beavers that would apparently help me approach a new morning, a new day. I clicked on the video and turns out, it taught me several lessons about beavers that I knew nothing about.
Impermanence – How beavers deal with change
Learning what beavers do, from this video, helped me grasp a concept that I believe is worth knowing about: impermanence.
It would be fair to say that we are experiencing the golden era of impermanence. No foundation seems stable, nobody is immune to change, assumptions are a thing of the past… Everything is changing, but we can surely learn a lot from beavers and how they exemplify impermanence.
To explain this fascinating concept, it is necessary that we first take a look at beavers’ modus operandi. Beavers’ vulnerability to predators is the main reason why they engage in such complex processes. Please excuse this oversimplification of “how beavers work,” but hopefully you’ll get a thorough enough picture:
- Beavers first find a constant, heavy water stream suitable for building dams.
- Using branches, stones, and other materials, they build dams to flood the area where they want to settle.
- They then start to accumulate materials to build a lodge in the middle of this flooded area, creating underwater entrances and exits to their lodge that predators can’t access.
- Lodges enable beavers to accumulate food for the winter, get and stay dry, and breed and raise new kits.
Here’s a visual explanation to see how beavers do all of this
Beavers embody impermanence. The dams they build to flood their surroundings and become isolated from predators drastically transform the environment around them and, to paraphrase the mentioned Headspace video: “eventually, it is (the beavers’) own hard work that pushes them out of their home”.
Over time, the accumulation of sediments resulting from beavers’ activity becomes too thick for water to flow, as a pond forms and certain species like ducks or turtles find their new home. When the supply of trees around the now dry pond dies out, the new terrain becomes pasture that feeds and hosts yet other sets of new species.
If beavers thought like humans, they would freak out. Their dams and lodges are now gone. Everything they worked for, the house and the environment they built to raise their families, is gone. I’m guessing that if beavers had a human brain, the narrative in their head would look something like this:
“Oh man, now that we were starting to get comfortable here, we have to move… If anything we should have moved last month, when the weather was much nicer. And I hate packing!”
“This sucks. I mean, where are we gonna get mushrooms as delicious as the ones next to the tree around the corner? They only have those here! I’m going to miss this place.”
“I told you we should have stayed on the other river! The family that settled there still has at least 10 more years to go!”
Although it would be hilarious, beavers don’t behave this way (fortunately for them!). When they see they can no longer live where they originally settled, they just move on. They find a new river, build a new dam, construct a new lodge, adapt to life in a new location. They know they can’t revert the changes that they exerted on the landscape, so they just move and again look for a new environment to settle in. They seek to regain control over their actions and the consequent outcomes.
Easier said than done, surely, but this is a much healthier approach to change than the one we usually adopt. We often waste too much time and energy trying to figure out our next steps and, even worse, unnecessarily worrying about what we might encounter in an uncertain situation.
In contrast, and in order to be better prepared for the next time we’ll have to “build a new dam” or lodge, we should never get comfortable, never assume that something lasts forever. It might seem unsettling at first, but implementing a strategy that keeps change in mind will save us enormous amounts of energy and stress, and make us ready for what’s next.
Changing the “Normal”
If you thought we were done with buzz words when we mentioned “times of change,” wait for this one: “new normal”.
Everything seems to be shifting to a “new normal”. We usually like normal, because it means comfort, routine, predictability, knowledge about how to act and what to do. But what if that “normal” changes? We can feel anxious and overwhelmed. We lose sleep and tranquility because, again, we seem to have no control over the outcome. Well, we are not the only ones dealing with changes. Beavers deal with “new normal” every few years.
Yes, beavers are wired this way, it’s embedded in their nature. And it’s hard to adopt the optimistic “everything happens for a reason” approach after negative events take place in our lives, but don’t you think that it is true that a door closing usually involves another opening, much like the beaver’s leaving its habitat causes new species to move in and start to flourish?
Beavers teach us that impermanence is not only inevitable, but necessary. It enables us to keep evolving in different areas of our lives, it teaches us that change is essential for survival and development, and it pushes us to start experiencing the next chapters of our lives.
It’s time for all of us to look at beavers, to learn and behave a little more like they do. It will surely help us deal with these times of change.
Disclaimer: This article has been edited for brevity. Read the full article here.
This article was written by a community contributor. All content is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the author himself. If you’d like to contribute, you can apply here.
Javier Romero is a sports, communications, and personal development enthusiast. He is a bilingual copywriter and has worked for leading companies in technology, sports, and communications in Spain and the United States. He now manages the digital presence of global sports icons and is a freelance writer on Medium.