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Buddy Up and Giddy Up…

I’m learning to ride a horse, which is a lot like driving a car, if cars were nervous and unpredictable and expressed their anxiety by leaping suddenly sideways and accelerating uncontrollably whenever the breeze picks up. Also their shock absorbers were made out of jerky. And they bit.

So I sit on this huge beast named Buddy like a fruit bat clinging to a human’s scalp, and I’m supposed to make him do what I want without reinforcing his suspicion that I’m a serial killer. My options are limited: I can tug on the reins, tap with my legs, or wiggle. Buddy and I must agree on what each of these actions will mean.

The process boils down to what my teachers call “pressure” and “release.” Tugging, tapping, or wiggling is pressure; a typical horse will start trying anything to make it stop. When Buddy does something I want—going forward, backing up, turning in place, composing poetry—I’m supposed to release the pressure and relax. This stillness–relief from pressure–rewards him.

It occurs to me that this is how my Essential, or Big Self (or soul, or whatever) communicates with my Small Self. Self is the Rider, and in this scenario, I’m like Buddy the horse. My Rider asks me to move by creating pressure: unease, discontent, irritation. When I do what my Big Self wants, my Small Self experiences stillness, peace, and relief.

You may feel your own Rider Self guiding you right now, tugging at your head, tapping your sides, trying to wiggle you out of your job or into learning French or adopting a child. Begin tuning into it. Pay attention to the subtle tugs and flutters. Try something—anything. Then try something else. When you go toward your best option, the pressure will suddenly disappear. Pay attention. Repeat.

It may feel awkward, but eventually this always works. Always. The more you practice, the more quickly you learn to interpret the Rider’s requests accurately. And your Rider has some big plans, friend. I don’t know what they are, but when you calm down and tune in, the two of you will have adventures your Small Self could never even imagine. Get quiet, get responsive, and giddy up.

P.S. Martha started a brand-new “Riding the Windhorse” workshop for those who want to share this amazing experience. The September 2014 event sold out, but click here to join the “Hey, I’m interested!” list. Martha’s events fill up fast–“Riding the Windhorse” sold out in four hours–so joining the list means you’ll be the first to hear about the next one!

The Critter & The Creator

critter & creator

Ever since we moved to California, I’ve been seeking some sort of community for my son Adam, who, as many of you know, has Down syndrome. I haven’t had much luck.

Most of our neighbors are wild animals, and there’s no well-developed special-needs program among the bobcats and the bears I’ve met so far. Even nearby towns don’t have many activities for people with special needs.

It finally occurred to me that I wasn’t walking my talk in this area. I’ve been feeling like a defeated little critter, unable to access an existing program or structure that would meet my family’s needs. Instead, I need to start thinking like a Creator, and simply make what I want.

Each of us is both a small, vulnerable critter and a vast, powerful Creator. When we stop feeling victimized or abandoned and resolve to design and build stuff, we align our identity with our Creator-selves. Instead of persecuted critters, we become heroes on a quest. A difficult quest, to be sure, but that’s how it’s supposed to be.

I have no idea how to convene a community for Adam. I’m just beginning to imagine what it will look like. But that turns my brain into a guided missile. The more I accept the role of Creator, the more I’ll notice all sorts of people and ideas that might help me. Then my job is to try, fail, learn from my mistakes, and repeat, until my imagined goal begins to take shape in the physical world.

This month, I challenge you to stop feeling like a victimized critter, and beginning to think of yourself as the Creator of your heart’s desires. Stick to it, and you’ll soon see that whatever you’re trying to build outside is just a byproduct. The clear thought and hard work of aligning with your Creator self will empower you, fulfill you, and teach you what you truly are. And that, it turns out, was the real goal all along.

Freedom From Fear

Polar Bear (Sow), Near Kaktovik, Barter Island, AlaskaLately I’ve become thoroughly exasperated with the part of my tiny brain that insists on continuously creating fear. Fear of dying soon. Fear of living too long. Fear of being alone. Fear of being spread out too thin between loved ones. Fear of drought. Fear of flooding. Fear of change. Fear of things staying the same.

ENOUGH, ALREADY!

I’ve tried suppressing my fear. It gets stronger. I’ve tried looking for the bright side, which simply focuses my mind on the inevitable dark side. I’ve tried medication, meditation, mediation, and a host of other ations. None of them worked. But recently, I’ve discovered something that does.

Here’s the thing: we can’t save ourselves from fear by seeking safety, because safety always means there’s something to be safe from—in other words, something to fear. The way out of fear isn’t safety. It’s freedom.

For a few weeks, I’ve been replacing every fearful thought in my head with a loving-kindness wish to be free from that specific fear.

  • When I’m scared that all the polar bears will die, I don’t say “Keep the polar bears alive!” until I’ve said, “May I be free from my fear for the polar bears.”
  • When I’m sure I have some dire illness, I don’t think “I must be healthy forever!”  I think, “May I be free from my fear of illness.”
  • When I miss someone, I don’t pester the person with needy phone calls.  I think, “May I be free from my fear of separation.”
  • Etcetera.

This request for freedom has been granted with subtle but remarkable power. I’ve had one of the calmest months on record. Freedom is landing me in peace, a state from which I function far more effectively—and safely—than anxiety. So feel free to try it. Really. Feel free.

When in Drought…

when in droughtLast year was the first I spent in California. Having come from the desert, I was all excited about the winter greenness, the rains that always come in October…okay, November…well, FOR SURE in December…or absolutely in…January?

Or not.

This is the first time in recorded history that the rain has not come at all. The forest I love is gray and stark. I swear I can feel things dying.

I was getting rather testy with God about this when a thing happened.

Jeanette Trompeter, a journalist and pal of Master Coach Jill Farmer, asked to interview me for the local news. We did the interview, then I forgot all about it. Several weeks later, I happened to flip on the TV exactly in time to catch the segment about me. Jeanette then told the weatherman how worried I was about the drought. The man in the magic box faced me and said, “Martha, stop worrying about the drought.”

I know! Right?

It still hasn’t rained. That’s how these things work. When I was deep in debt, I got winks that said “Stop worrying about money.” It arrived…eventually. When I was “incurably” ill, I got winks that said “You’ll get well.” I did…eventually. The good stuff didn’t happen when I wanted it to, but it happened. And in the meantime, these loving messages from the universe helped me drop useless anxiety.

Try this: Think of a current “drought” in your life. For 10 minutes, just trust that it will all be okay. Trust that you’re being guided. Trust, against all odds and evidence, that you are safe.

When I use this exercise on my drought fears, the strangest thing happens: I feel it raining inside myself. I become a microcosm of the life-giving rain that, someday, will bring California back to life. Or so I trust.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A week after Martha wrote this, it started raining in California.

December Disasters and Other Gifts

tapeThis year was going to be the one when I finally did the holidays right. I was going to be both pragmatic and intuitive, jolly and serene, organized and free-flowing, and full of holiday joy.

Two words: face plant.

If you happen to be in a counseling profession (life coaching, social work, parenthood, cocaine sales) you know that December is not so much a month as a recursive disease, like malaria. It makes humans jumpy, gloomy, and fussy. This year, just when I thought I was immune, I had a grand mal attack of the Decembers.

To those who talked me down from various neurotic ledges: I thank you. To those who taught me to play calming cellphone games: I owe you. To those who received a roll of tape from the post office as your gift from me: Please know that somewhere in my house is a beautiful, thoughtful gift I bought for you in October, then carefully hid. From myself.

At this writing, I’m skidding into 2014 with my face still firmly planted where my feet should be. And that’s okay. It reminds me that every time I try to meet exorbitant expectations and become a fantasy version of myself that has never actually existed, I experience wipeouts of epic proportions.

I’m left with little choice but to watch the devastation from my heart, which has no idea what December means to my mind. Dropping language and coming home to the moment, I see immediately what I hide from myself every December (and it’s not just your present). I see that every day is a holy day. I see that celebrating, generosity, and gratitude are simple states of being, not unattainable ideals. Every out-breath recalls miracles, the presence of the divine in stables and candle flames. Every in-breath is a delicious feast, an offering, a gift.

I guess it’s worth losing some face to remember that.

Taming Wild Mustangs

KOELLE_FINAL_0759

For the last three days I’ve been fulfilling a longtime Wildly Improbable Goal, watching my friend Koelle and some of her Equus coaches taming wild mustangs here at the ranch. It’s just amazing. And it’s reminded me how we really change our lives, and the world, for the better: calmly, kindly, joyfully.

Before our two mustangs arrived, Koelle showed us some film of a typical “breaking” process: terrified horses thrashing and kicking for weeks on end as they’re roped, chained, and otherwise overpowered by humans. Koelle uses a method so gentle she often uses nothing more than eye contact—and it works far, far better than violence. 

In fact, the Equus coaches are using such subtle body language to connect with the horses that it often looks as though they’re simply standing near the mustangs, completely relaxed, barely moving. That’s the energy that allows the horses to calm down and learn that it’s safe to be herded and handled. When I walk around the barn to the mustang paddock, I’m hit by a wall of stillness so sweet it makes me gasp. And this stillness has done more in three days than traditional “breaking” can accomplish in weeks. Better yet, no one is suffering. 

More and more, I feel that this is the way we are meant to do everything. Exertion must be limited to fun; to create what we want in our lives and the world, we must find peace and stay there. 

Today, look upon your life, your bank account, your family, each person you meet, as a wild horse. If a problem looks difficult, relax. If it looks impossible, relax even more. Then begin encouraging small changes, putting just enough pressure on yourself to move one turtle step forward. Then rest, savor, celebrate.  Then step again.  You’ll find that slow is fast, gentle is powerful, and stillness moves mountains.


photo: phyllis lane | www.phyllislane.com

Foul Play

Gould_Wild_turkeyIn 1666 a Dutch physicist noticed that two pendulums mounted on the same board always ended up swinging at the same rate. He called this “entrainment.” It affects any oscillation, including breathing, heartbeats, brain waves, and turkeys.

Yep. Turkeys.

Yesterday I decided to meditate on my front porch.  As I settled in, a large delegation of wild turkeys scurried up the road that leads to my bird feeder. They do this every morning, like commuters, so I barely noticed them. I was using the mantra, “I am infinite stillness.” As I repeated this, feeling all spaced out and blissed, I opened my eyes to see that the turkeys had stopped in front of me.

They stood absolutely, unnaturally still. Not a feather moved, not a toe, not a head. I’ve never seen turkeys behave this way. I kept meditating, and not one turkey moved AT ALL for over five minutes (I clocked it). Then I counted them (there were 21). As I counted, they all suddenly began moving again. Counting had taken me out of stillness. So I went back into meditation. All 21 turkeys lay down, limp as opium smokers, until I finished meditating. Then they resumed their usual speed-walk to the bird feeder.

It’s great, quirky, subversive fun to experiment with entrainment. When you get reeeeeaallly calm, it reeeeeeaally calms everything around you. And what most everyone wants is to feel reeeeeaally calm.

At peace. 
At one. 

You are the master of the energy you radiate. You always have a choice. Don’t fall into resonance with some random person who’s feeling lost and scared (as most humans do, most of the time). Be the peace you wish to see in the world, and watch the turkeys in your life—both literal and metaphoric—join the stillness. (Insert Thanksgiving joke of your choice here.)

Make Your Own Pocket Eden

220px__lesser_goldfinch_1I’ve written a lot of delirious prose about my experiences in Africa, and in my new home where the back yard is a national forest. If I could, I would take everyone to these gorgeous places that restore my spirit. It frustrates me that I can’t. Recently, however, I’ve found a spot as wondrous and magical as any safari I’ve ever taken—and this one you can replicate, if you want. I highly recommend it.

Here’s what I did: I put a bird feeder and a little fountain outside my bedroom window. I face that window when I meditate. While I’m supposed to be watching Nothing, I sometimes realize that I’ve become enthralled by the miniature ecosystem outside.

I especially love a family of tiny Lesser Goldfinches who couldn’t care less about an ordinary birdbath, but love to bathe in running water. I am not kidding; these little yellow puffballs love bathing like drug abusers love crack. They shiver with joy, lowering themselves into the water and fluffing their feathers with pleasure so obvious it would get them arrested in some states (not California). Each time I see this, it makes me deeply, absurdly happy.

I’m going on about this because I’m pretty sure you could make this experience, or something like it, happen for yourself.  If there’s even the tiniest space—a window ledge, a planter box—where you could invite nature in, do it. Then sit still long enough to see wild things discover and enjoy what you’ve offered them.

I could quote studies showing that this will do fantastic things for your physical and mental health. But I’d rather just have you go look outside, maybe scatter some birdseed, and let the wild things come and tell you themselves. 

P.S.— Watch my home video of the tiny goldfinches frolicking in the bath above. Then, click on the picture below to see how my oneness with the tiny birds manifested the first-ever appearance of an eagle (captured by a nature camera on a different part of my ranch).

Doing Nothing

TailLob2Yesterday I went whale-watching with my son Adam and my partner Karen. It was a beautiful day, and there were humpbacks everywhere. Aside from the slight injuries I sustained being elbowed by other tourists, it was awesome.

Of course Adam had his own odd way of whale-watching, which consisted of sitting on the boat with his eyes closed for three hours. Whenever I asked him something (“Don’t you want to see the whales?”  “Don’t you want some water?” “Don’t you want to elbow a tourist?”) he’d shake his head briskly, wide awake. When I asked him what he was doing, he said he was “feeling ALL the sea animals.” As one does.

This illustrates a paradox I’ve noticed this month: Sitting still is incredibly powerful. Recently I’d been hankering to meditate more, and I can’t sustain a good hanker, so I started sitting more often, and for longer time periods, than ever before. This has had a weird result. Slowing down has caused everything I do to happen faster.

Every day, after meditating for an hour and a half, I get up and observe my body as it does chores. Then I watch my brain and body together writing, teaching, or answering email. I don’t feel as if I’m doing it, and it happens bizarrely fast.  All my life I’ve felt rushed, but the more of nothing I do, the more I seem to feel my way through the ocean of tasks we all face.

This month, especially if you have a lot to do, try doing more of nothing. If you don’t meditate at all, try 10 minutes a day. If you do meditate, double your time. Then notice the velocity at which things get done. If you don’t notice an improvement in a week, quit. But give it an honest try.

Lao Tzu says, “When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.” I’m finding this to be almost magically true. 

Do it—that is, don’t do it—and see for yourself.

Joy to the Boy

Bird Cage

PEOPLE, IT’S TIME TO SET MEN FREE!

I started my career back in the 90s writing about the way social change was tearing women apart. Twenty years later, I think women have made huge strides toward an altogether new way of viewing themselves and moving through the world. Our wonderful tribe of coaches is made up almost entirely of women who have found ways to be true to themselves no matter what society tells them.
 
Now, it’s time for our boys.
 
Even when I was researching the crisis of role stress for women, I could see what was coming for men: while women were ripped to pieces by conflicting social demands, men were being compressed into tinier and tinier role definitions that I call The Man Cage.
 
Here’s the best way I can describe it: when I tell a woman she needs to quit her horrible job, she must deal with her own fears and uncertainties. When I tell a man that he has to quit his horrible job, he has to go home and have a fight with his wife. We women may be fragmented, but we are relatively free. We can wear a skirt or a pair of pants without raising anyone’s eyebrows. Men must show up in a very limited array of colors and patterns—primarily the bleak colored suit with the colorful noose around the neck—or their masculinity will be called into question. In many minds, a man without a job is not a real man.
 
So, men, whose minds and bodies were made to run and climb and build and sweat and love, compete for soul-destroying occupations where they must sit, complete with noosed neck, in a fluorescently-lighted box taking orders to do things so boring that they make computers want to kill themselves.
 
Now here’s the kicker: the jobs for which men give up their happiness, usually in service of their families, are disappearing. It’s not a political issue, it’s a technological one. Robots and silicon chips can do the vast majority of things that once gave humans jobs.
 
So, that’s the situation. Men are being socialized to relinquish their joy for horrible pastimes that are no longer even available. So many of my beautiful male friends feel trapped, desperate, afraid, and separated from everything that gives them true happiness.
 
Guys, listen up: we women who love you want you to be happy. There is a new way rising in the world; a way to raise a family without extinguishing your inner light, a way to make your heart’s desires attract abundance. A way for it all to make sense. Joy to the Boy is my current obsession. It’s the title of the book I’m writing and the foundation of the workshop you’ll see offered in this newsletter. Start now. Set yourself free. You can do it. All good women are on your side.