Monday, November 2, 2009

The Wisdom of a Turtle

I'm speeding along at a frenetic pace, running late for work again. I get to the office 20 minutes late. I'm feeling utterly stressed as I hustle and bustle trying to catch up and get everything done I need to accomplish for the day. I end up leaving work an hour late. I drive through downtown, racing through the city full of bright lights, surrounded by a thousand noises from every direction. Fighting traffic, with ten thousand other people, I'm trying to get home in time to go to my sons basketball game. As I turn off the freeway and onto the highway, all of a sudden I see something in the middle of the road. I slam on my brakes, and there directly in front of my car, taking his own sweet time is this amazingly large turtle crossing the road. At first I'm angry-just something else to slow me down, but instead, I'm suddenly captivated by his mystery and gracefulness. And I think to myself, why can't I be more like him? What an amazing animal he is. For a few minutes while I wait for him to cross the road, I completely forget about my stress, my worries and the fact that I am going to be 15 minutes late for my sons game. As I drive off, my focus has suddenly been shifted. The great spirit, or God has sent me an extraordinary reminder. I offer up a prayer of gratitude for the small miracle I have just witnessed.

The turtle is a mighty creature revered by many cultures around the world. He has much to teach if we will but listen. He is natures perfect balance-a tough outer shell with a tender soft heart. The turtle walks quietly, in stride with the pace of the universe. He is in no great rush to get wherever he is going. Because of his slow movement, he is much more aware of what's going on around him. The turtle reminds us to slow down and go with the flow, to keep a smooth and steady pace, keeping in stride with the Tao (pace of nature), to be in the moment and savor the moment, to take in all the moments of life. He is strong, independent. He understands the art of patience, tranquility, balance and inner harmony.

The Native Americans believed that the turtle represented healing, nurturing, mother energy, survival, longevity, protection, patience, persistence, and knowledge. Turtles encourage us to be in the flow, to enjoy the journey, the path we are on, without hurrying the pace. They teach us to take things one step at a time and be patient in attaining our goals. Turtles show us a new perception of time and our relationship with it. They are like a river that moves ever so slowly, yet powerfully and forcefully, one step at a time towards a seemingly unknown destination. They remind us to dance with the universal dance.

The turtle reminds us to keep an impenetrable shell, to go within ourselves for guidance and protection at any given moment. Buddha once said, "Even as a border city guarded well within, without, so guard ye well yourselves. See that the moment pass not vainly by. " The turtle is the perfect depiction of both of these things-guarding ourselves and not letting the moment vainly pass by. Like the turtle, we must learn to go within ourselves for wisdom, guidance and protection.

That day, I learned much from an unusual animal encounter. The Wisdom of a Turtle is astounding. I once read a remarkable quote somewhere, that we are human BE-ings, not human DO-ings. We get too caught up in the doing and not enough in just being. Let us be more like turtles savoring every step along our journeys, remembering that all of life is a process and that ultimately, the journey is the destination.

Copyright Justin Topik 2009

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