Yo! Martha’s First Blog Post!
Hi, it’s me, Martha. I recently realized that all I really want to do was sit down and yack with my coaches and clients. I tried doing this on the phone, and lost six pounds because I forgot to leave time to eat. So I’ve decided a blog is the way to do my yacking. I’ll be posting every couple of weeks. I wish we were hanging out drinking margaritas and roasting marshmallows somewhere in a wilderness paradise, but for now, this will work for a “campfire.”
So about a year ago, I decided I was about to die.Not in a hypochondriacal or suicidal sort of way—I was healthy as a horse and happy as a clam—but because I’d finished every project and realized every dream I could imagine.I was standing on the summit of my personal Everest, looking out at the amazing view, filled with gratitude, with nothing left to climb.Since no new dreams or goals sounded interesting to me, I figured I was all finished, and was about to experience the adventure of death.
So I made sure my will was in order, doubled my life insurance, and headed off to Africa, to run a coach training course.Along the way, I had to stop at my favorite place, Londolozi, a game reserve in northern South Africa that feels like heaven. I wondered, with no little excitement, if I was destined to be killed by lions.I mean, what a way to go, right? Tell me where I’m wrong!
But to my astonishment, no lions ate me.Instead, I got operating instructions for the rest of my life.
AND HERE’S WHERE YOU COME IN. (Probably.)
If you’re reading this, it’s because you have some sort of interest in, or at least curiosity about, my work: writing, coaching, speaking.And if you have such interest or curiosity, it’s probably because you’re on the Team.
I’ve been aware of the Team since I was a small child, though I still don’t quite understand it.I just felt oddly different from most other people, as I think most children do, except that occasionally I’d see someone and feel a small burst of recognition:“Oh!That person’s on my Team!”I had no idea why I thought this, or why some people were so clearly my Team, while others clearly weren’t.There was no age, gender, race, ethnic, or socioeconomic bias to the Team: I “recognized” people who seemed wildly different from one another.
What all these people shared was a faraway perspective, a sense of standing outside ordinary society and puzzling over its many problems.For a while I called them “Watchers,” though I had a sense they were meant to do more than just watch.At some point, I always felt, the Team had a job to do.And we were all in training for that job.
I pushed these thoughts away during my skeptical adolescent years, but they came back like a tsunami after my son Adam was born, when I was 25. I still had no idea what the Team was meant to do, but I was getting a vague picture.It had something to do with facilitating a major change in the way human beings think.I was in academia, so I figured I’d add a tiny pebble to the edifice of social science, and that would be it.No one would even notice, which was okay by me.
Over the past 20 years, the number of Teammates I’ve spotted has grown exponentially.For the past two years, Team members have been coming out of the woodwork.Many of them have simply walked up and asked me, “We’re on the same Team, aren’t we?”I’m not even surprised by this any more.I just say, “Yup.”
“Do you know what we’re doing?” they’ll say.
“Not exactly,” I tell them.“Something about a transformation of consciousness.”
“Of course,” they say, as though this is very old news.“But do you know exactly how?”
“No idea,” I tell them, then add something I heard from Teammate Betsy Rapoport: “but whatever it is, we move at dawn.”
The Task of the Team
This conversation happens to me more in South Africa than anywhere else (you South Africans are big-time Team, the whole kit and kaboodle of you).So I should’ve expected that instead of dying on that Africa trip, I’d awaken to a whole new slate of dreams and goals.
That trip, I met a whole slew of Team members, whose lives are about “rebuilding Eden.”I learned that Londolozi, the wildest place I’ve ever been, was reclaimed from dessicated farmland by John and David Varty, who inherited the land when they were teenagers.Since then, they’ve repaired massive swathes of land all over Africa.According to one of the geologists who’s helped them do this, it would cost $38 billion dollars to repair every ecosystem on earth.This includes having healthy humans who can live on the land by preserving it, rather than ruining it.When I read Dave Varty’s book, The Full Circle, I finally realized why I can’t die just yet.I have to help the Team accomplish one little task.
We have to save the world.
Understand that I am a natural pragmatist and a trained sociologist.Long ago, I assessed the way the human population was expanding and affecting ecosystems, and decided that I’d tell my kids not to have kids, because that way there would be fewer humans to suffer when everything goes to hell and only the cockroaches survive.To preserve a world where humans can thrive, we not only have to stop ruining the planet, we have to repair much of the damage we’ve already done.Until a year ago, I didn’t think this was possible.Now I believe it may be.But it’s going to take the whole Team, pulling together.
So, are you in?
Your Role On the Team
There are probably millions of Teams on earth right now.I only “recognize” people who happen to be in mine, but this isn’t an exclusionary categorization, just a functional one.I’m still not at all sure how we should coordinate our actions when dawn breaks.But I can tell you some of the common characteristics of my Team, and these characteristics will give us some clues about our respective and collective jobs.See if you identify with any of these criteria:
- You’ve always felt separate and odd, misunderstood by others while having the ability to make them feel understood.
- You’re haunted by a feeling of having something incredibly important to do, but you don’t know what it is.Over the past couple of years, this feelings has become almost overwhelmingly intense.
- You hate small talk, but find that large talk is not encouraged.
- You love, love, love animals; in fact, your life feels incomplete unless you’re interacting with animals. This is your posse:
- Your childhood and adolescence were difficult.Like really, really difficult—abuse, addiction, years-of-total-despair difficult.
- You’ve had a significant “life accident” such as losing several family members to death, being physically disabled, or having a child with a disability.
- You’ve had a long-term, disabling and/or painful illness that was mysteriously unresponsive to medical treatment.
- You occasionally feel compelled to learn or create certain things, without really knowing why.
- You’ve begun meeting people who are like you, in a strange way you can’t articulate, and you feeling powerfully drawn to these people despite lots of surface differences.
If this is ringing your chimes, you’re the kind of person who, in a traditional culture, would probably have been identified as a shaman, a wizard, a druid, a medicine person. You may also have been burned at the stake. Oh, well, nothing is perfect.
So it’s wonderful to live in a time when the burning-at-the-stake thing has been scaled down.On the other hand, it’s a bummer to be a natural-born shaman in a culture that doesn’t believe in shamans.You may not know exactly what to do with your life.Maybe you’re posing as a therapist, a hospice worker, a human-resources coordinator, or some other identity that is our society’s pale version of tribe mystic.You probably haven’t been trained as a shaman—I haven’t been, and I’d never claim the label.But I was born with the bug.And if you were, too, we probably have similar roles in the saving of the world.
Getting Ready to Save the World
The traditional life’s work of a tribe shaman has two components:
1.Learn to align oneself with the Powers That Be.
2.Use connection with the Powers That Be to teach and to heal.
Of these two tasks, the former is far and away the most important.In my “life coaching” system, which is really a form of tribal teaching, we say we have to “live it to give it.”
The good news is that if you live it—if you behave according to your own ethics and constantly work to be more authentic—you can’t help giving it.People will hunt you down to ask for your advice, and they’ll feel healed by being near you. The word “wizard” comes from the same root as “wisdom,” and wisdom is always in short supply. It’s a seller’s market…with one catch.
The bad news is that trying to give it without living it (not walking your talk) can make you diabolical.No one does more damage than a born shaman who’s aligned with the wrong Force. Both “living it” without “giving it” and “giving it” without “living it” are impossible. You must stay in balance to be a Good Wizard.
It’s worth noting here that the term “charisma” is a Greek word that refers to the quality of being connected to the spiritual realm.A “charismatic leader” can create either great good or great evil, be a Martin Luther King or a Hitler.Even if you were born to serve only yourself, your kids, and the dog, being born a shaman means you’ll have unusual influence, so it behooves you to live rightly.
Once you set out to live as authentically as possible, you’ll automatically download the operating instructions for your particular role in saving the world.You may feel drawn to active application of geology and ecology, like Dave Varty.You may become a politician.You may adopt a stray cat.Everyone on the Team has a different, unique path.Shamans are alike in some ways.In other ways, we’re wildly different.The way for you to teach and heal is your way only.So how do you know you’re on track?In a shamanic kinda way.
How To Stay On Track
Happily, shamans have a built-in safety mechanism to help keep them (us) on track: if we don’t live authentically and serve others, we become physically sick and psychologically tortured.To stay healthy and happy, you must follow your singular path, even when every bit of social pressure and cultural custom dictate otherwise.You have to realize that “shaman sense” and “common sense” may look very divergent to the people around you—but for you, the two are always aligned.
When my life was filled with activities and intentions that weren’t “on course” for me, I was clinically depressed and/or crippled by massive chronic pain, eventually diagnosed as fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, and a few other incurable illnesses.As long as I live my shaman-path, however, I’m very happy and my “incurable” illnesses are completely dormant—no symptoms at all.
So the way to follow your own personal operating instructions is to do whatever makes you happiest.That may sound selfish, but shamans are only happy when helping others.When we’re helping, we’re happy, and when we’re happy, we’re helping.Saving a swathe of Africa, becoming a doctor, writing a book—these are all just byproducts of living in the joy zone.
Right now—ever since that trip to Africa—my operating instructions have been telling me to do what I’m doing right now: find the Team, and tell them who they are.If you’re not on my Team, this whole blog post is ridiculous to you.I don’t mind.I’ve been accused of heresy and insanity plenty of times.But maybe you’re thinking, “I’m on the Team!I’m on the Team!”If so, I’ll be writing to you and about you in future blogs.For now, all I’ll say is, this is Martha Beck, and we move at dawn, and what’s more, my dears, it is almost sunrise.