Lessons live all around us
When we are in the presence of the magic of nature, we can think of it as just the world in our midst or be grateful for our greater place in it. When we choose the latter, we see the world around us as magic and wonder. It all feels miraculous and in the process, you might just learn something.
I got a piece of this magic last year while in Borneo, a country full of natural wonder. Our family was lucky enough to have a six month sabbatical together (that's definitely a piece of gratitude!) and this was one of our stops. There, I was graced by the presence of green sea turtles, which are unfortunately going extinct. Their eggs are taken as treasured sources of fertility around the world and thus, the species is struggling to survive. We were at a marine park in the middle of Borneo where they help preserve the eggs that sea turtles lay in a hatchery so the species can survive. Visitors are allowed to come and spend a night on the island in very basic accommodations to learn about the turtles. The marine park gets financial support and humans learn to respect this species. You are allowed to play on the beach only in the day because after sunset and through the night is when mama turtles come to the beach to lay their eggs. The island is a magical place, surrounded by aquamarine warm water and filled with white sand. It would be a developer's dream but thankfully it is protected now so that the turtles can return safely.
And so we were privileged as a family to frolic in these pristine waters that day. We had hoped we would get to see a mama turtle that night and we did get that gift after long, patient waiting. But I had no idea what we were about to experience right there in the middle of the day on the beach. A turtle must have laid eggs that were not seen by a ranger. Because spontaneously, right in front of us, a whole batch of turtles hatched from the sand and ambled towards the sea, their small flippers floundering in the sand as they tried to get to safety. (If they do not make it to the water, they die because of the intense heat.) It was amazing to watch these little baby turtles in the water with my own babies who were standing there awe-struck, watching them and rooting them on. They struggled until they got to the water where they floated effortlessly. I will never forget this experience. The rush I felt in my heart was something I still remember as pure magic. But maybe even more powerful is that I learned so much about my own human life from these sea turtles. They left an indelible impact on me and I want to share these lessons with you.
1. Turtles always know how to go home, they always know their way.
Sea turtles are born on one island and although they swim for thousands of miles, they return to that same EXACT space to lay their eggs 30-50 years later. Even the males return and stay in the water around the island while the female goes to shore and lays the eggs. It is a wonder of nature that they can have this memory. The way they do this is through an intricate awareness of their surroundings. They actually have magnetic crystals in their brain that they use to sense the earth's energy around them. In fact, this is why it is critical that the babies walk themselves on the beach and not have a human put them in water, thinking they are helping it to safety. They need to feel the sand under their flippers to help them "record" the location in their brain. This is how they are able to return to the exact spot they were born to birth their young babies decades later! It made me think of my dear massi (aunt) who although now passed, was a magnet healer in India. As a child, I would go to her office and she would apply small, circular magnets to parts of my body to manage a cold or whatever ailment I had. I would ask her how this worked and she explained that our bodies are really just energy and that this energy can get out of balance. "These magnets help our energy find its balance again," she said. And here were these turtles who we know have these magnetic centers of energy in their brain and this is how they never get lost. What if we as humans could do this? What if we could always find our home, our center, when we needed to? It inspired me to think of all the ways we ground in life when we are feeling "off-balance." We try to find our center, our own home, whether that be through gardening, exercise, meditation, etc. What if just like turtles, we need to find our home and so, we need to gain awareness of the world around us and how we are relating to it to make this happen? I find my "home" best when I am either dancing or cooking. These are the two things that help ground me back in my body so that "I can find my way." Only you know your best ways.
2. Turtles depend on community to survive.
When these fragile, little creatures finally get into the water, they have numerous reasons to be fearful. Their chances of survival are quite low, especially if they go into the water in the day when they are seen more easily. Predators are numerous and the turtles have very little defense due to their size and age. So after getting into the ocean and reaching deeper waters, they coalesce into one large form so predators at the bottom think they are one big animal. This way, they are less likely to be attacked. Now if that isn't the power of community, I don't know what is! Clearly survival depends on the whole and they know this from the youngest age. We really aren't very different. We like to think we are independent but the truth is we need others to thrive and even to survive. Studies show that individuals with the strongest social connections are more likely to live longer. Yet, we don't prioritize this as a healthy habit like diet or exercise. It is an innate human need to reach out and connect. It was good to remind myself of this. I am a social person but sometimes when I am feeling down, I find myself going inward more than outward. Some of that is necessary to be with my emotions but it can become a vicious cycle where I just isolate myself. So I am taking my cues from these turtles!
3. Mama turtles manage pain with deep trance meditation
As we watched the sweet mama turtle try to lay her eggs late at night (and this is no joke, they average somewhere around 50 eggs in one sitting!) the ranger pointed out how she held a transfixed gaze during labor to manage pain. She did not even know we were there. He explained also how she cannot hear anything, including our voices. But if we were to run up behind her, she would feel this vibration which she keeps as a defense mechanism to protect her eggs. I have delivered countless babies in my career and delivered three of my own so I have some experience with labor. And what I have seen and experienced is women who can achieve a deep, concentrated focus either through visualization, breath, or movement are the ones best able to manage the pain of contractions. But it also made me think about all the studies out there on pain and meditation and how critical it is to recognize that pain is so complex. We cannot begin to understand all the nuances and biochemistry of pain but it is clear that the mind plays an important role and that we can empower ourselves to help manage pain. That sweet mama turtle reinforced that.
4. Most importantly, these large creatures move slowly.
I have a dear friend who has given me a few turtles (in the form of jewelry or small figurines) during our friendship to remind me of this. We need to slow down! In our often fast-paced, frenetic days, the most important task of the day may be to slow down to counter the effects this stressful lifestyle. We all know that but we need reminders. I keep one of those precious turtles she gave me in my purse as a reminder. So when I find it accidentally during the day, frantically rummaging through my purse, I remember these beautiful creatures, the way they move and the power they have. I too, can move more powerfully if I remember to do it slowly and with intention to always return to my own home, my center....
Possibly the most important part of all these lessons is that I was reminded of them by stopping to notice how the world moves around me.
When we get out of our own heads and connect with the larger world, we are reminded of the most important teachings. Then we realize the gratitude we can have for the wisdom of other creatures.
Maybe you could see today what happens when you stop and notice the world around you? You just might learn a thing or two. Let me know what you notice!