I was a toddler when my parents used to take me to ‘Dinga Pull’, a local pond, near my home town of Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala District. The pond was full, of a number of local as well as migratory birds like cranes, black winged stilts, herons and geese etc. Those were the days when air conditioners were a luxury. Only a few could afford while most people used to sleep on rooftops during summers. Early in the morning everyday, I used to count number of big flocks of migratory birds. And I didn’t realize when bird watching became my hobby and continues to be the hobby I enjoy the most until today, the only difference is now I capture them in my digital memory as well. What amazes me the most about the birds is the variety of color, sizes and feather styles they exhibit. I love to watch them sing, dance, feed their chicks, eat, fight and sometimes trick human beings. My grandmother had at least two to three stories to tell on each bird I used to tell her about after coming back from my bird watching expeditions. In Greek culture the hell is described as ‘Averno’ a place without birds and I too believe in the same. God has surrounded us with birds and in our culture birds are symbol of our faith and trust on God.
In addition to being impressed by the sheer beauty and diversity of the bird kingdom, I am equally amazed by their mannerism and behavior patterns. Over many years, I have learned a number of life lessons from bird watching and in this post I’ll share some of the key ones.
1. Evolution: Sixty Six million years ago a ten kilometer wide asteroid collided with Earth; such was the impact of the collision that the dominant animal group at the time, the mighty dinosaurs went extinct, at least most of them. Though the impact was equivalent to a force of millions of nuclear bombs and eventually ushered in a nuclear winter like scenario for Earth’s climate, still one peculiar type of dinosaur made it through the catastrophe and survives today. We know the current descendants of these dinosaurs as ‘Birds’. There have been a countless studies to why did ancestors of modern birds survive while many of their close relatives succumbed. Recent research suggests that prior to the extinction event, a line of the dinosaurs shrank in the size gradually over millions of years as they developed flight capabilities and beaks (instead of teeth). And they were able to sustain themselves eating seeds long enough to survive the climate conditions and emerge as survivors. Evidence also suggests that seeds are usually tough naturally and can withstand catastrophic phenomena. It’s possible that changes in diet actually lead to leaner structure overtime and their bones and muscles evolved become lighter (and therefore the flight). This was possible in part because birds evolved and adapted to the environmental changes. And of course the conditions created by the collision were favorable to their long term survival, so they got lucky as well. In order to grow and be successful we also need to change and adapt as per the situation.
2. No one wins alone; When we all help one another everybody wins: Birds fly in V shape formation and each formation has a leader and each member of the formation follows the leader. When the lead bird flaps its wings it creates uplift for the followers and helps save their energy and they can fly farther. When the leader gets tired another member from the formation takes his place and the leader shifts to another position without any feeling bad about losing his position in the formation. Once they reach their destination their hierarchy ceases to exist and all of them spend time with each other as equals. If they see any danger they shout and also tell others about the danger. A great team beats a great individual any day. When you surround yourself with like minded people with a winning attitude you benefit from fresh ideas, profound insight and positive energy.
3. Know the route and travel together: Migratory birds fly thousands of kilometers every year and they follow the same route for generations. As they say, “if you want to go fast, go alone and if you want to go far, go together.” No one understands this phrase better than birds. They fly together as flying together increases their chances of survival.
4. Wake up early: You will never find a bird sleeping late in its nest. Birds wake up very early and welcome the sun with beautiful songs and start their routine with positive energy. This is one trait found in all successful people world over- they all are early risers and start their day when others are still sleeping in their beds. If you want to develop habit of waking up early click here.
5. Self care: Birds struggle the whole day feeding and taking care of its ever-growing chicks, still you will not find a single bird untidy. Birds take care of themselves and they keep themselves clean and tidy. When we are stressed at work with loads of to do list and overdue tasks, the first thing we do is to skip meals, stop exercise and ignore our social life. Ignoring self care only makes things worse. Self care helps us in preventing the overload burnouts, reducing the negative effects of stress and helps us to refocus. If you can’t take long breaks to rejuvenate your energies even small breaks go a long way to help you perform better.
6. Come back home: Birds start their day early for the search of food and sometimes they fly to distant places looking for food but when sun sets in they always come back to their nests. A number of people ask where do migratory birds belong to and I always answer that their home is where their families are. Travel where ever you want to and explore the world but always remember there is someone waiting for you at home.
7. Family comes first: “You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”
Birds endlessly carry food for their chicks and they first feed to their chicks and then have something for themselves. And whenever some predator bird attacks their nest they give a tough fight to ensure safety of their chicks and a number of times even much bigger and stronger predators abandon their attack and run for safety. There are only a few people in the world who will do anything to protect you and shower their unconditional love and support for you. Family makes you the person you are today. Every family has ups and downs but end of the day you will always be together.
8. Learn to let go: Chicks are center of world for the birds and one of the strongest instincts of the birds is their desire to protect their chicks from all kind of dangers. There comes a time when those elder birds don’t hesitate to push them to fly and start their lives on their own away from protection of the parents. We as human beings get emotional when it comes to bidding adieu to our kids to pursue their dreams.
9. Spread your wings: Birds have wings covered with feathers and they can fly where ever they want to. Courage, determination and hope are wings for human being and these wings can take you to places. When you are ready to move on and fly, just spread your wings and let go of the branch you are clinging on to.
10. Sing your song: A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”- Maya Angelou. No one teaches birds how to sing and what to sing. They sing from their heart. I am a firm believer that if you have legs -you can dance and if you can speak- you can sing. Life is a song and singing is an expression of self love. The worst that we can do to ourselves is to think that we can’t sing. Singing is divine and it affects us deeply and reminds us of our connection to ourselves and to the world.
11. Trust yourself: A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not on the branch but on her own wings. If you trust your capabilities and strengths no matter what the situation is you will be able to handle and overcome it.
मंज़िल उन्ही को मिलती, है जिनके सपनों में जान होती है,
सिर्फ पंखो से कुछ नहीं होता, हौंसलो से उड़ान होती है l
12. Overcoming fear of failure: The bird that dares to fall is the bird that learns to fly. One of the greatest barriers to success is fear of failure as it immobilizes you and prevents you to move forward. Imagine if birds had similar fear of failure they would not have tried to fly and there would be no planes and rockets. It’s impossible to go through life without experience some kind of failure. Failures help us to discover our strengths and help us grow. No success can be achieved without conquering failures.
13. Eye for detail: Birds can view an object from great heights and wide angles. They have keen eyesight and they pay attention to details and have a great sense of intuition. Decision making is a key element of the success and it needs to be taken after considering all the options by taking bird’s eye view of the problem at hand.
14. Dedication: Have you even seen a bird making its nest? Whenever I saw a weaver bird I wonder how meticulously it builds its nest on a palm tree so that it doesn’t fall in strong winds and the chicks are safe from predators. And to build such a nest one needs dedicated efforts.
15. Gender equality: Birds treat their chicks as equal and don’t differentiate between them. They give equal attention to them. We need to be more aware of the challenges women face in our country and how can we spread awareness in our surroundings about gender equality. We need to educate our children about gender equality and make them more gender friendly.
16. Respect Nature: God gave us a perfect ecosystem where each and every part has a different but interdependent role to play and one part of the ecosystem disappears the whole system is threatened. If one part of the body suffers then all other parts of the body also suffer. I remember watching vultures flying high in the sky and suddenly all those vultures disappeared from the sky. With that the rotten bodies of dead animals started smelling bad which lasted for several days. Vultures used to eat the dead bodies of the animals, converting them into compost. I am sure you must have noticed common sparrows are not so common these days and may be on the verge of extinction. I sometimes wonder how we will tell stories to our kids about the birds which will be there only in videos and photographs.
17. Look far in the future: From its nest high up on the mountains eagles look far in the distance. An eagle can spot their prey from quite a distance. Once they have spotted their prey they give their 100% to the chase and get it. To be successful you too have to look far in the future and once you spot an opportunity you should not leave any stone unturned to make it a success.
18. If you suspect something fishy fly away: Birds are very rational species and they don’t take chances with their security. They never let a stranger come too close to them and the moment they suspect something fishy they fly away instantaneously. This is a lesson we must teach our kids. We can avoid a number of troubles by just turning away.
19. Take care of others in need: Whenever a bird gets injured its partner and friends try and motivate him to fly to a safer place and if it’s not able to fly they feed them and stay with him till the time it’s not able to fly again. This is the most important lessons we can learn from birds. A number of accidents happen around us and most of the people, even after knowing that someone needs medical assistance, don’t stop to take care of the injured. We can save a number of deaths just by giving first aid or dropping the injured to a nearby hospital.
20. Live in present: Birds don’t collect more than what they need and they don’t save things for future. Birds live in present. May be that’s the reason they sing and enjoy their lives more than human beings. Man wants to save for his future first and once he secures his future he starts worrying about his next generations. Have you ever asked yourselves; is your life worth this rat race? When I ask this question to myself, it reminds me of a Shabad, ‘Raag Goojri Mohalla 5’, written by 5th Guru Arjun Dev Ji :
ਊਡੇ ਊਡਿ ਆਵੈ ਸੈ ਕੋਸਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਪਾਛੈ ਬਚਰੇ ਛਰਿਆ ll
(The flamingoes fly hundreds of miles, leaving behind their young ones behind)
ਤਿਨ ਕਵਣੁ ਖਲਾਵੈ ਕਵਣੁ ਚੁਗਾਵੈ ਮਨ ਮਹਿ ਸਿਮਰਨ ਕਰਿਆ ll
(Who feeds them, and who teaches them to feed themselves? Have you ever thought of this in your mind?)
Be grateful for what you have. Live in present. Live light.