This master architect builds with precision, repairs with vigilance, and creates with an inextricable connection to the surrounding forest. Her seemingly selfish home-making endeavors produce unforeseen resources for countless neighbors who gather at the new waters to drink and grow. Beaver medicine sets aside grand delusions of importance and settles down to gnaw away at the task at hand. She works with a knowing that there is nothing to be done outside of how it is done. External goals, (the building of buildings, the winning of games) on the most fundamental level do not need to be accomplished in and of themselves. Goals are an ‘ends to a mean.’ The single most important goal above all other goals is to improve the quality of your experience of life. How you do what you do is why you do it. Beaver asks you to derive your identity not from all the objects you’ve made but from how you’ve made them. The beaver’s actions, even when destructive, bring ultimate harmony and unpredictable abundance into a larger landscape beyond her immediate concern. Changing and rearranging all the stuff around us without locating a deeper stillness within leads to mindless manual labor and a diminished life experience. Beaver medicine knows that by focusing on her own enjoyment of a task she increases the Joy available to the world at large. Let all external action rise from a desire to enjoy the process and an indestructible satisfaction will be found in all that you make and do in life.
Beaver is prepared, tooth, tail, webbed feet and water proof fur. She is a forest dwelling rodent whose greatest pleasure is found in manipulating large bodies of running water into still ponds. She’s a ranger and a lumber jack who takes it upon herself to keep tree growth in check by felling the over-ambitious Aspen, Cottonwood, Willow, Maple, and Birch. Evidence of her presence is seen for miles around before catching a glimpse of her small furry form. Her teeth never stop growing so she never stops gnawing. Her vision is limited but her lung capacity allows her to stay under water for up to fifteen minutes at a time. Her masterful engineering skills allow her a variety of escape routes to and from her sprawling mansion home. Beaver’s lodging is, in fact, the focal point of her existence. Her home is all the world she ever needs and it is, by it’s very design, well-stocked with food, water and warmth, allowing the beaver to stay active all through the winter. When most animals are hibernating under the cloak of snow, Beaver is making plans and following through, milling about the pond she called into existence with her own industriousness. She is monogamous for life and raises her pups in collaboration with her mate in the safety of a finely crafted environment.
Beaver medicine asks us to take a good look at the quality of our environment and suggests we fell a few metaphorical trees that might be in the way of harmonious productivity. Destruction is an intricate part of creativity and can not be avoided. The nature of the world around us is a mailable substance. It is designed to shift and alter. Beaver medicine engages in bold acts of alteration knowing that what is True can never be destroyed, no matter how we chop, slice, compress, or treat it. The term ‘natural resources’ is redundant. All of nature is a resource for Itself and there is no thing outside of nature. There are only varying degrees of distance from harmony and balance. Nature, (with a capital ‘N’) is neutral and in this way, allows all living creatures to do what they choose with the abundance of shapes and forms thriving all around us. Ultimately, balance is the ability to adjust behavior to the current conditions of material resources to insure continued existence. Balance is found in the micro-communities of ghetto’s as well as in the macro-community of Nations. The undeniable suffering and mindless destruction we see happening to natural habitats the world over is due to an outdated Western perspective of individual isolation that if maintained will result in human extinction.
Beaver knows how to balance finite resources in her immediate surroundings. She knows that just because you ‘can’ utilize a resource doesn’t mean you ‘should.’ Her power and wealth lies in knowing that she is her environment. She is not just in it, she is it, and as such, all her actions affect her directly. Historically, it was thought by European conquerors that nature was a resource to use for monetary profit. They were right that nature is a resource; it is a resource from which to access life experience. But the Western mind was wrong in attempting to translate the abundance of life into paper money. The pursuit of happiness was equated with the pursuit of money and North American forests became factories of extraction and commerce. And now they are gone.
As the Industrial Age quickly proved with its profound misery and lightless conditions, no amount of paper, fur, or metal will determine the quality of your life. In the current climate of human world domination, Beaver medicine urges us to start doing less and to take a look at the material results of our activities. The advice to do less may sound like an argument for laziness and it may make over-achievers suspicious. But Beaver asks us if we are able to feel valuable without feeling immediately useful. Western culture has been trained to be useful in a measurable and monetary sense on an hourly scale. If we are not buying or making something to be bought we are not important. Beaver medicine teaches that we do not have to ‘earn’ our living. We are already alive so that’s all taken care of. What it is we are ‘earning’ is how we live and that is up to us no matter what our environment. Working for money in the hopes that it will bring you comfort and security compromises your spirit and enslaves you to a task that has no meaning. Beaver asks that we work for the enjoyment of the task and no other reason. You will not go hungry and you will not be homeless if you take courage and follow your heart’s desire. Your inherent energetic resources will see you through the winter. So feel free to stop and do nothing until the next impulse to take action arises of its own accord.
Often times what keeps us at a laborious job and away from what we’d rather be doing is a Western mental notion that says some activities are ‘important’ and ‘official’ while others are not. Western educational institutions trained us to believe that work is obligatory and not fun. If we have fun at an endeavor, the Western mind eventually labels this activity as a ‘hobby’ and marginalizes it to weekends or holidays. Activities that are fun are not considered a valid use of ‘work week’ time since we Industrial Age heirs have to earn our keep with immediately measurable profits. Indigenous cultures on the other hand work in direct proportion to immediate need and all tasks are delegated to each individual best suited for the job. Once survival is insured, the rest of the days and nights are theirs to sing, dance, build and make. Beaver asks you to let yourself like what you like regardless of how important or significant it may or may not be and to legalize your right to schedule time for your joy without judging that which brings you joy. No activity is insignificant if done with interest.
Beaver medicine explains that what often gets in the way of enjoying ourselves is a compulsive need to feel singularly important and a desire to be the best, most beautiful, most intelligent, most amazing… ever at a given task. Western perspectives seek grandeur to a detriment. Our fairy tales illustrate this need to be uniquely special with stories of princesses of the most exceptional beauty being chosen by the richest most successful prince of all the land. We often cultivated a need to feel exclusive and exempt from our surrounding conditions. This need to be the best at what we do is a deadly egoic trap that prevents us from experiencing the fun of simple actions. It is not necessary to reinvent an activity to enjoy it. It is not necessary to reach thousands of people if you are able to reach yourself. We do not have to be masters of a craft to justify spending time doing it.
But Beaver medicine also offers guidance on how to become a master of any endeavor by making the distinction between discipline and consistency. Consistency is an Industrial Age myth that attempts to turn your body and mind into a machine by a force of will. It is impossible to maintain consistency indefinitely. Eventually you will have to stop whatever you are doing and allow your understanding to expand from the effort you put forth. If you persist in a doing without the opportunity to expand into stillness your technique may be laudable but your expression will not move hearts. Discipline, on the other hand, is a deeper skill that is not threatened by a break in consistency. Discipline is the ability to start again anew from seeming scratch no matter how far off the path we’ve been blown. Trying to force a regiment of consistent behavior that ignores the natural ebb and flow of personal energy ultimately creates a torture device where you cycle round fabricated failures. Some days you can make it to the top of your hike and some days you can’t get your shoes on. Some days you write ten pages and some days you sit and stare. Your actions do not need to define your being. Urgently engaging in a commotion of busy work to prove consistent behavior is, in truth, hiding a deeper fear of stillness. But Discipline acts like a magnet in your bones ever pulling you towards true North. Discipline is the ability to place attention on a task while also letting your desire wax and wain, trusting that what you are truly seeking will emerge and find you.