Monday, May 6, 2013

Living Like a Turtle

Image courtesy of Crystal Church
A high-powered corporate executive came into a doctor's office for a checkup. He showed signs of overwork and stress. The doc warned him to slow down, to take up a hobby – perhaps painting – to relax. He agreed and started right away.

The next day the high-achieving businessman phoned and announced enthusiastically, "Doc, this painting is wonderful. I've already done ten!"

We don't need to be CEO's or high achievers to suffer from too much negative stress. It's easy to feel overwhelmed. In fact, you may be wondering this very minute whether you have time to read this page.

When I feel all-too-busy, I sometimes envy the turtle. The turtle lives as if time is no obstacle; a turtle seems to have all the time in the world and then some.

I think we have something to learn from turtles. Point in fact: turtles live an exceptionally long life. Humorist E. B. White tells us that scientists are searching their blood for some clues to their longevity. He speculates that
perhaps the turtles' blood vessels stay in such nice shape because of the way they conduct their lives. They rarely miss an opportunity to swim and relax in the sun. No two turtles ever lunched together with the idea of promoting something.

I think he is right about this. Turtles do not attend meetings and conferences. No turtle ever texted while driving, tweeted while eating or complained about too much email. They never use words and phrases like "implementation," "multi-tasking," or "thinking out of the box."

Some days the life of a turtle sounds just about right. Non-anxious and calm.

But in truth I suspect that merely slowing down is not a very satisfying answer. What I need has less to do with my pace of life than my peace of life. At any speed, I crave a deep and lasting inner peace. And if it's solace I'm after, I don't need to pace myself like a turtle, change jobs or set up house on a quiet island. It is usually frenetic living, not high energy, that robs my peace of mind.

I actually feel my best when I am energized and enthusiastic about the next thing ahead. I feel fully alive when I am busy, sometimes even too busy, doing what I love the most. It's not about slowing down or living like a turtle – it's about enjoying my life and finding meaning in it.

I believe we can stay active and engaged and still come from a deep and peaceful place within. We can live in the excitement of the moment without undue stress about the future. And at any pace of life, we can come from the calmness of love rather than anxiety and fear.

Even a turtle can go for that.

-- Steve Goodier

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