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Leaps of Faith…Insight from Martha

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Hello from Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa, where I’m happily ensconced with several intrepid companions enjoying the African STAR (Self-Transformation Adventure Retreat).

When I told an acquaintance that I lead seminars in the African bush, she responded, “Oh, my God, how did you get that job?” The long answer is: 1) This isn’t a job, it’s my passion; and 2) My friends and I made it up. The short answer is: I drink my own Kool-Aid.

My coaching is all about following your inner compass; it makes you feel free and exhilarated when you’re headed toward your right life, shut down and joyless when you’re not. Just follow the good feelings, and you’ll have an awesome ride on Spaceship Earth.

That premise has led me to actions I never, ever thought I’d take: Having a son with Down syndrome. Spending twenty years (and counting) with a soulmate who happens to be female. Writing books that many people think are just plain nuts. (These people may be right.) But when I come to a crossroad, I really truly do check my inner compass and take whatever leap of faith takes me toward my own north star. Otherwise, I’d never ask you to do the same.

Living this way is an indescribable feeling, a feeling that makes one wish devoutly for more access to horse tranquilizers. It’s always scary. It never pleases everyone. But it also takes us to beauty, joy, love, and mystery beyond imagining. Today, for me, that happens to be Africa.

What is it for you?

What leap of faith is your compass telling you to do next? If it’s easy, cheap, logical, and socially acceptable, lucky you! If it’s terrifying, expensive, weird, and a little crazy, lucky you! Feel the fear and do it anyway. That’s the real Self-Transformation Adventure Retreat. It will take you to a place just as lovely as Londolozi. When you get there, don’t forget to write.

P.S. For extra credit, take a picture of yourself breaking one of your rules and post it on our Facebook page. (Just remember that “Martha told me to” does not a plea bargain make.)

Watch Martha at O You! 2011

At O You! 2011, Martha used her experience in tracking animals in Africa as a metaphor on how to go back to your “last hot track” when you’ve lost your way and are having trouble finding your passion.  Watch more below!

Clicking on the above video will direct you to oprah.com website.

 

Bright Spots: Insight from Martha

I’m all blissed out because I just returned from this year’s African STAR (Self-Transformation Adventure Retreat) at the Londolozi Game Reserve.  It’s impossible to describe the joy and enchantment of coaching incredible people at a place devoted to “Restoring Eden.”   

Occasionally, people tell me that they don’t want to go to Africa because it’s a place of such terrible human suffering and poverty.  This always makes me think of Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.  In Switch, the Heaths describe how masters of change create miraculously positive results.  

One key is looking for what the authors call “bright spots” in every situation, no matter how difficult. In all the doom and gloom about how the natural world is being destroyed by human activity, Londolozi is a “bright spot” that shows how humans can restore nature even after we’ve destroyed it.  But Africa is full of bright spots.  For every terrible atrocity, there are hundreds of thousands of acts of kindness.  For every corrupt dictator, there are a million gentle, wise, kind Africans.  For every jerk who kills an elephant and puts it on YouTube, there are dozens of conservationists who love the animals and want them to survive.  

Now that I am back from Africa, I want to be even more mindful of bright spots than when I left.  Change experts like the Heaths assure me that this, not doom and gloom prognostications, will help me be part of the positive change I want to see in the world.

Right now, think of something about your life that is troubling you, something you want to change.  It might be a child who is not doing well, a business that is in the red, an underwater mortgage.  For the next five minutes, instead of worrying about this thing, find a bright spot in the situation.  If your child doesn’t have a job, or has landed in solitary once again, at least she’s off the street.  Seriously, think of all the bad things your loved ones might be doing that they have avoided and the positive things, however small, that they may have accomplished:  truly loving a pet, being loyal to their friends, getting your jokes.   

As you start to make the list, you’ll find the bright spots start to pop out more and your negative judgments fade.  I believe that in that very moment, you have begun “feeding” your attention to a situation you want instead of a situation you don’t want.  Attention is a powerful nutrient.  It amplifies and accelerates the situations on which it is focused.  Now think of a second problematic situation.  Find the bright spots there. Make this a practice whenever you feel yourself growing anxious or angry.  Try this for a month.  If you don’t like the results, go back to looking at the dark spots. 

Shortly after I decided to try this practice, I met a hockey player in an airport.  We got to talking and, for some reason, he told me, “When you’re trying to score a goal, never ever look at the goalie.  Look at the spaces around the goalie, no matter how small they might be.  Where your eyes go, the puck goes.”  I got on the plane and sat down beside a kayaker.  As we chatted, he told me, “When you’re in the rapids, never look at the rocks.  Look at the water around the rocks, no matter how small it may seem.  Where your eyes go, the boat goes.”  I remembered my first embarrassing riding lessons with Koelle Simpson, the master horse whisperer.  “Look in the direction you want to go,” she said. “Where your eyes go, the horse goes.” 

OKAY, I GET IT!

Your life follows your attention.  Wherever you look, you end up going.

That’s why I think that as you try the “bright spots” exercise, your life will start heading in happier more productive directions.  Your relationships will be more relaxed and less contentious as you stop criticizing your loved ones and begin enjoying their positive attributes.  Your customers will be drawn to the energy of a business based on optimism.   

The world really is full of dark spots.  Of course, we’re aware of them.  Of course, we want to change them.  But where our attention goes, the world eventually goes.  So our task is to keep the negatives in our peripheral vision while focusing our full attention on joy, kindness, love and peace.  This is the way to “Restore Eden” in our own hearts, minds and lives so that we become the agents of restoration for everything we hope to change.

A New Level of Healing: Insight from Martha

I’ve always enjoyed looking for life coaching challenges out on the fringes of human experience, and I’ve always been optimistic about what coaching can do for people. This last month I reached new levels on both these counts. After spending several glorious days watching the wildebeest on land that was once “healed” by the same Team members I met in South Africa, I found myself in Rwanda, wandering through the genocide memorial and looking into thousands of the saddest faces I have ever seen. I am not easily daunted, but from a life coaching perspective, Rwanda officially daunted me.

In the most densely populated country in Africa, I don’t remember seeing a single happy face. The genocide might as well have happened yesterday. As someone whose corporate mission statement is “to eliminate unnecessary suffering” I didn’t feel I could take this lying down. I’ve left Rwanda, but Rwanda has not left me. As I’ve reached deeper than ever before to think of methods that could heal such horrible wounds, I’ve been growing as a coach by leaps and bounds.

Like the magical helpers in the classic hero’s saga, some truly blessed things arrived to help me as I considered Rwanda’s plight. First and foremost was the presence of three awesome coaches: Ashley Jansen, Susan Baghdadi, and Cindy Leech. These incredible women maintained such a tangible level of calm and love that I came to believe we could, in time, begin to heal even the darkest wounds humans have inflicted on each other. Another was a wonderful family who invited me into their home and allowed me to participate in their calm, loving, completely untroubled daily lives. The family consisted of one silverback male, two ladies who could have ripped off my arms, and several small, extremely furry babies. Standing and watching wild mountain gorillas, looking out through a forest similar to the movie Avatar, I could feel that wherever love for nature and for other beings arises, all things begin to heal.

Before we left Africa, the other coaches and I were already dreaming up an intensive “life coaching pellet” which could be taught to health care providers anywhere in the third world and left to ripple outward into the population at large. We’re already hard at work on this new life coaching product. I am up at night scheming for a way to get back to the most difficult place I have ever been.

Passion can take you to some frightening places. It can leave you facing seemingly insoluble problems. But it also brings friends, magical experiences and a range of understanding that just continues to increase. The world needs you to follow your passion – NOW!