Creating Your Right Life

inspiration & tools for empowered living


Martha’s Bookshelf: Selections for August 2010

I didn’t get huge stretches of time to read this month, between chasing wildebeest and hacking my way through stinging nettle looking for gorilla nests. However, I did grab some pleasure reading on airplanes. The most value added was The Feeling of What Happens by Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist, who provides fascinating insights into the way we make choices (if you think you’re rational, think again; emotion, not logic, is the only mechanism that makes choice possible). 
A more literary perspective on the psychology of addiction and healing spirituality is Lit, a memoir by Mary Karr, author of the best selling The Liars Club. This book blew my mind, partly because at the very time I was slogging my first two children through Harvard, Mary Karr was slogging her own infant and suffering from her own mental demons. Reading about her experiences made me wonder if we’d sat together in the obstetrics living room at Harvard Medical Services; two frightened women who felt as if we had no options and would later go on to write memoirs about the day our paths crossed unknowingly.
Finally, I am loving The Zookeepers Wife, by the poet Diane Ackerman. This incredible historically accurate book is about two Polish zookeepers who managed to save over three hundred refugees from Nazis by capitalizing on Hitler’s obsession with rare animals. This one will have you glued to your chair turning pages as if your life depended on it. Enough said.


Live Like a Lion, Love!


As I return home from almost 30 straight days on the road, having visited three continents, five countries, and three US states, I’m adding a new mascot to the bevy of beasts that have taught me how to live. The great things about being human is that, though we can’t quite equal the strengths of any other animal, we can do at least a half-assed imitation of any. (Yesterday on the History Channel I saw a blind man who echolocates like a bat, clicking his tongue and “reading” the sound echoes that bounce back to him from various objects.)

My current role model is Felix Leonis, the African lion, but not for the usual reasons. People have been identifying with lions forever because they’re big, strong, and have great hair. Me, I’m into their actual habits, which aren’t nearly as dignified and industrious as most people think.

First of all, lions sleep 20 hours a day. EXCELLENT! In Africa I met a wonderful Team member named Georgina Hamilton (now nicknamed Geo) who told me about a seminar she attended to learn lucid dreaming. For 10 days, the participants got up, ate breakfast, heard some instructions, and went back to sleep. Lunch, lecture, more sleep, dinner, much more sleep. What a concept! Listening to Geo I resolved to get serious about sleep—as aggressive as a challenged lioness, if need be.

Other than snoozing, lions have two major occupations. First, they hang out with their loved ones. I’ll never forget watching two leonine brothers—massive animals with manes like rock stars—wrap their front legs around one another and set to purring like tractor engines. Imagine two NFL nose guards with the social inclinations of Teletubbies. This I intend to imitate with anyone I love, and frequently.

The final lion occupation I intend to adopt is being silly. On the Masai Mara a few weeks ago, I flip-cammed these two youngsters playing with their food. Notice that they don’t actually eat the poor dead thing (at the height of the wildebeest migration, these lions were surpassingly well-fed) but use it for goofy hunting practice. You can practically hear them saying, “I will kill you some more! And more! Like this! You’re dead! Now you’re dead again! You are soooo dead this time!”

If you find this ghoulish, I understand. It takes some time to get used to the circle of life on the African savannah. But like a lion, I’m going to let you process that on your own. I’m feeling a little drowsy.