Entries by Martha Beck

Turn on the Stars

I was steeped in writer’s block, boosting my self-esteem by rescuing bears in Candy Crush, when my daughter phoned with the news. You’ve probably heard by now, but I just have to write it down myself: Scientists have discovered that when dung beetles roll their balls of animal feces at night, they navigate by looking at the Milky Way! I know what you’re thinking: Thank God some intrepid scientists asked themselves, as we all do, “How the hell do dung beetles navigate at night?” And thank God these scientists did not remain on the couch playing Candy Crush! No, they took a bunch of dung beetles to a planetarium, where they let them see different simulated night skies: some dark, some with stars visible, some showing only the Milky Way. And here’s what they found out:   *Dung beetle path illustration from Current Biology (Volume 23, Issue 4). http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982212015072 Is […]

The Law of Attracting Trojan Horses

People talk about “the Law of Attraction” as a way to hook Hollywood headlines, Washington power, and Wall Street wealth. I believe in the Law ofAttraction, but I don’t think it’s that simple. In fact, I direct a slightly bitter laugh at the whole concept of thinking ourselves to success. Haha. Here’s the sobering truth: We don’t attract what our minds want. We attract what our souls want. The mind, despite its amazing abilities, is powerless to do miracles unless it’s in cahoots with the soul. And what do our souls want? Not the cabana on the beach, not the well-oiled, nubile partner, not our names in lights. Our souls want us to wake up. Dammit! Because of this, we draw into our lives—inexorably, unintentionally, with maddening repetitiveness—exactly the things that lead most directly to awakening. In many cases, that’s our deepest suffering. You know how the road to hell is paved […]

Are you following love into fear?

  Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. –Helen Keller When I was 14 years old I realized that I could either: 1) do something that scared me every day, or 2) live under my bed hoping to catch and eat the occasional mouse, like a snake. I was so frightened of life that I could see my life as an agoraphobe rising over the horizon. I chose a life of fear. Thank God. I’ve been guided by fear my whole life, but not the way you’d think. Being afraid of something—as long as the something sounded remotely interesting—became my cue to throw myself into that very thing. All my life, I’ve addressed crowds because I’m scared of public speaking, traveled because I’m afraid of jetlag, written books because I’m pretty sure that everything I’ve ever written flat-out sucks. All I wanted was a life that kept me out […]

Are you ready to live like Jumping Mouse?

One of my favorite stories EVER comes from many Native American traditions, and is estimated to be at least 10,000 years old. I read it when I was 15, in the book Seven Arrows, by Hyemeyohsts Storm. I didn’t know why I began to sob as I read this apparently simple tale of a mouse who wants to find his way to the sacred lake that is the source of all things. I didn’t know until decades later that the story is a guide to awakening, that it metaphorically traces every step on the way to enlightenment. The story is called “Jumping Mouse.” It’s about an ordinary mouse who can’t stop hearing the call of the rushing river (which symbolizes spirit or source). Little Mouse heads off on a journey to awakening. As it begins, a frog appears and insists that to follow his yearning, Mouse must jump. He must […]

Stop Doubting and Start Writing

“When I write,” Kurt Vonnegut famously said, “I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” We all feel that way when we set out to do something truly important. I doubt that Vonnegut ever believed his writing achieved as much as he wanted it to. But it changed a lot of things, all over the world. For one thing, it changed a Mormon girl growing up in Provo, Utah. It changed me. The best parts of my childhood were made of books. That’s why, as I grew up, I came to see every task as trivial compared to sacred process of writing. Written language is such a huge magic, such a magnificent castle to explore with our minds, that it’s both magnetic to me, and scary as hell. The first time I had to write a poem for school, I didn’t sleep for five nights. […]