Rumble Strips

Rumble Strips AheadI am going to assume that y’all are already on board with my obsessive belief that we are undergoing a transformation of human consciousness. I could be wrong, but let’s just say I’m not. It seems that this change is imminent, if not already upon us. In Eckhart Tolle’s image, blossoms are opening in individual human beings all over our flower-field of a planet. This is beyond exciting! It’s also slightly more than terrifying if you are going through it. So here are a couple of concepts to calm and comfort us all.

The first is what I call “culture versus compass.” If we are meant to continue living on this particular planet, we must switch—very rapidly, now—to a way of thinking and living that has never before existed. This is necessary because the conditions we now face as a species are utterly unprecedented. What this means is that no culture—I repeat, no culture whatsoever—can give us full instructions on how to embody this new consciousness. Every culture provides hints, but none by itself could possibly be complete.

So how does one steer a path that does not yet exist? Since there is no cultural map, we have no alternative but to rely completely on the internal compasses we all carry in our hearts.

This sounds dangerous, even to me. The human heart seems full of bugs and errors. I have a firm faith in destiny but have never thought it wise to trust humans too much. Tough! The heart is all we have left to guide us. The ongoing miracle I have been experiencing recently is the discovery that our hearts are being guided more benevolently and helpfully than I ever dreamed possible. Even people who set out to harm others end up accidentally helping them. (I call this the “nemesis phenomenon”; the villain who sets out to destroy the hero, but without whom the hero could never discover the limits of his superpowers.) So all of this is just to say that any decision you are facing is best made in the deepest confines of your own body and brain. They are instruments miraculously calibrated to lead you; you must trust them now more than ever. For further information on this, please read everything I have ever written.

The next most useful tool in these chaotic times is what I call the rumble strip. A rumble strip looks like this: your dog dies on the same day your car is totaled, your daughter joins a cult, your best friend moves away, and your refrigerator explodes. In other words, it’s a barrage of seemingly unrelated catastrophes so severe you cannot ignore them. You have no idea what’s happening or why, only that this feels too freakishly bad to be coincidental.

I believe that, as the phrase suggests, rumble strip experiences are designed not to torture or punish us, but to steer us. We are headed in the wrong direction, not through malice or even intent, but simply by mistake. We’re like drivers who have fallen asleep at the wheel and the fates are conspiring to awaken us. If you encounter a rumble strip, from a morning of small annoyances to a year of crises, please realize that part of your awareness is asleep. By this I mean it is tied up in erroneous assumptions. Assumptions, by definition, shape the way we see the world. We are as unconscious of them as a sleeping driver is of sleep itself. That’s why the rumble strip feels so chaotic: it is jolting, jarring, and breaking apart the basic foundations of our worldview.

The best response is to slow waaaaaaay down. Begin to see where the thoughts you believe most deeply no longer serve to explain the chaos in your life. The rumble strip is pointing out the assumptions you must question, and in its elegant mercy it paints them so vividly with emotional pain that they will be hard to miss. For example, my first rumble strip was the year I described in my book Expecting Adam, when I was afflicted by everything from a nearly lethal illness to high-rise fires to lice. Fun! And then there was my son’s Down syndrome diagnosis. It took all that to smash apart my assumption that the value of my life was my intellect. You may have different assumptions but, trust me, some of them will not work in the months and years ahead.

The transformation we are feeling will only speed up from here. So please pay close attention to your inner compass. If you stop steering by your compass you will hit a rumble strip. Don’t panic. Just question your assumptions and you’ll be back on the road in no time.

25 replies
  1. Kristine
    Kristine says:

    Thank you, Martha! Thinking of the past two years as a rumble strip helps immensely. And I’m on board with your theory. All of this can in no way be coincidence. I just wish someone had told me to buckle my seatbelt . . .

  2. Kim
    Kim says:

    It took two deaths and a divorce to wake me up to the fact that keeping people at an emotional distance can not guarantee a pain free ride through life. Thanks Martha.

  3. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    I’ve been over the rumble strip and have come to realize I have not been following my compass (which, by the way, when I follow it good things have come to pass), but the realities of life keep pulling me back. Or maybe it is me pulling me back…. Thanks Martha, you are one more person attempting to make me see.

  4. Marly K
    Marly K says:

    I have been going through my own rumble strip and turned to your blog precisely because I am feeling so deflated that I am losing the motivation to stop sliding into a depression. I THOUGHT I was following my compass, but now I’m wondering if I have been letting my woo-woo side dominate my life. I’m wondering if maybe I’ve been hopelessly foolish to believe so wholeheartedly that if I follow my bliss and persevere, things will fall into place. Nothing has fallen into place, not even a little bit. It took me a long time to trust my intuition and now I feel just… deflated, discouraged, and DUMB. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting it all to fall into place INSTANTLY. I have been patient, but the truth is, I simply can’t survive for much longer if something doesn’t give. I am really losing my get-up-and-go.

    • Gale W
      Gale W says:

      Hello Marly K,
      I know from my own process of following my “Compass” and my “Bliss” that the journey will take you to strange places that you never knew existed.
      My journey started almost 20 years ago and has been full of big surprises. AND THIS NEW JOURNEY NEVER ENDS. Once you have reached one destination, your soul calls you to start walking to the next destination.
      You said ” I am really losing my get-up-and-go.” No one tells you this but “If your get-up-and-go” has “got-up-and-left” then you are moving in the right direction for sure.
      It is now time to SLOW DOWN and evaluate every single aspect of how you live your life. A human being must breath, eat and sleep to live but everything else is optional.
      You must evaluate complex things like relationships, work life, cultural and spiritual beliefs but also every simple things like how and where you live, even how you dress or fold the laundry.
      You are being called on to evaluate everything you “do” and everything you “think”. You must evaluate whether the things you do and the things you think still serve you. If they do then keep on doing and thinking them. if not, then stop doing and thinking them.
      Sounds easy, it’s not easy, it’s the hardest work you’ll ever do and THE MOST REWARDING.

      • Gale W
        Gale W says:

        Hello Again Marly K.
        I forgot to mention one very important thing.
        Once a person has decided to live their “Bliss” they can NEVER, NEVER, NEVER RETURN TO THE LIFE OR SELF THEY HAD BEFORE, it’s not possible.
        You can stay where you are now, move ahead slowly but you can never go backward, only forward.

        • Marly K
          Marly K says:

          Thank you very much for your posts and insights, Gale W.! They are very enlightening and I greatly appreciate your thoughts and experiences. More than anything, I’m worried about the financial aspect of it, given that everything I’ve pursued so far has led to a dead end. I thought I could make money by following my bliss, which I’ve worked on developing my writing for 17 years now, but since that hasn’t panned out, I have been looking for alternate sources of income. But I’m too tired now to keep attempting things. I think I am going to have to fold and meditate for a while before I go further, like you suggested “move ahead slowly”.

          I guess I thought I’d get a few encouraging signs that I’m on the right path. Nothing major, even having a story published for free in a tiny little magazine would do it!

    • Lisa L.
      Lisa L. says:

      Hi Marly K,

      I am sharing a similar journey and sit in awe as to what it is that is keeping me from allowing the life I have meditated on and envisioned for myself for over 3 years. Sometimes I feel that I have actually gone backwards! I am starting to feel like a joke and those who do not get my path think I should give it up already and those who do, can’t figure out why my life experience hasn’t changed. Trust me, I have done it all believing I would find what has been blocking me. I have become quite the enigma and have started to question if this is what my life is and if change is possible for me. I have wonderful gifts in my life and am grateful for sure. And like you, I am patient and am not having a tantrum because my Louie bag hasn’t arrived. Finding a spiritual love, creating a thriving business and having financial freedom is my intention. So far, 0 for 3. I remind myself to trust that this will be, continue the practice and another 6 months have past. I have definitely found inner peace and am so much more grounded…it is amazing how far I have come. It would be nice to have a taste of the experiences I desire and know that what I am doing is working. Ican’t help but feel that I must not be doing it right or I would have created it already. You are not alone my friend. Sigh…remembering to trust and respond. This too will pass.

      • Marly K
        Marly K says:

        Thank you, Lisa L. I appreciate your post. As it happens, I am looking for those 3 things as well. I guess the only option is to trust and respond, like you say. Best of luck and warmest regards!!

        • Diane H
          Diane H says:

          Hi Marly K. Lately I have been focusing less on the specifics of what I want and more on the “reasons” why I want what I want. By reasons I mean fundamentally what feelings do I want to experience that I believe I will have if I achieve this specific thing. Sometimes I find that when I am so focused on the specific, I am actually more in alignment with the absence of it than the presence of it. By focusing on the feeling experience I want to have (beginning at the end), I realize that frequently during my day, I run across many things that allow me to have that feeling experience. And when I allow and appreciate that experience, there is a shift, and other things like it begin to come into my experience. I know Martha’s advice in her new book pertaining to Wordlessness and Oneness as the first steps toward manifestation has been so helpful. From wordlessness and oneness, I can perceive that what I want is already a vibrational reality so to speak and my inner compass is always directing me toward those things, much like those who read the currents have the island they are seeking rise up to meet them. (Martha’s story). I find that when I open up by asking the question: what (of all the things I have desired) is this present moment asking to have physically manifested and set my intention based on the inner answer I receive, it appears in my experience. And it is really important to recognize the “little” manifestations that come my way – like the parking place I need, the book I want to find even though I have no idea what the title is and who may have written it (this just happened to me), to the phone call from someone I want to talk to, etc. All of these things support me in trusting the process. Relaxing, removing resistance (which means recognizing it when it is present), allowing, timing and trust are really important. We all have our own blocks when it comes to working with those things and by being willing to work with those things even when it is difficult, I think an energy becomes available as a support to everyone else who is facing the same issues. We are all in this together and providing supportive energy to each other when we stay true to our own compass. Peace.

        • Judy K
          Judy K says:

          Hi Marly, What works for me is being extremely grateful, in advance, for that which I choose to experience in my reality….in effect, acknowledging that it already is there! For me, whenever I do have doubt….and wanting, I only create the same. Aren’t we all amazingly fortunate to be part of this journey with Martha?

  5. Jane Lee Logan
    Jane Lee Logan says:

    Right on da money! I think you plucked this right out of my mind–love when that happens!

    Additionally, I have seen that when we evolve into a new and higher awareness, everything in our life that is out of alignment with this new state falls away–the bigger the shift, the more crumbling there is. Not a bad thing for sure, but it sure doesn’t always feel good walking through it. But eventually our life begins to blossom reflecting the new and improved model.

    Thank you for all the beautiful work you’re doing!

  6. Joan
    Joan says:

    Thank you for this insight, I too felt I had found the things in life I desired and that by following my bliss,listening to my intution and working to grow emotionally and spirtually I had found my life shifting. And all of that is true. I had been in a 2 1/2 year relationship that ended abruptly when I found out my partner has been lying and cheating the whole time. So as I look for the lessons and try to understand what my part in this situation is. I was reading this and realize I am in a rumble-strip, and while I already knew I was being lovingly pushed forward to see what was not working in my life and what the universe was trying to show me. So thank you for helping me with my focus and giving me another way to search my soul for the answers it is trying to tell me.
    Martha, you are an inspiration.

  7. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Rumble strip, what a great analogy. It took me a few times of going over the strip until I realized what it was about. Looking back though I found those times of crises also lead me to life transforming discoveries.

  8. LJ Show
    LJ Show says:

    Hi Martha,

    I love your post. I can relate as I believe I am stuck on a flypaper like rumble strip of epic proportion. I tell myself, often, to slow waaaaay down, which is thwarted by the vagaries of those around me.

    At any rate, Have you heard of the Int’l Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers. These ladies speak to what you refer to as the imminent change in consciousness (which I agree looms very very close). You might want to check them out, if you haven’t. Here is their link:

    And here is my musing on the topic:

    Thanks for your post. It’s a cheerier view than mine.



  9. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    I also believe that we are moving closer to enlightenment/awakening/higher collective consciousness. I have been going through my own personal enlightenment that has manifested into recognizing my professional path, writing the album I’ve been talking about for decades, changing my wardrobe, planning an out-of-state move, discarding years and years of clutter, feeling good in my own skin, feeling happy and blessed in my marriage…overall things have been honest, true, beautiful.
    It seems that the more in touch I become with the universe the more obvious the signs become. When I’m driving and it seems that so many barricades are in the way, I take it as a sign to slow down, quiet my mind and my anger. I was literally just now reading your article and watching an episode of What Not To Wear and this woman was talking about hiding…and I thought, I need to keep moving in that direction and not hide. The next thought was, I want to hide lately, I want to wear the old jeans and sweatshirt, it’s comfortable. And at that moment the ice in my glass shifted and I was covered in a flood of diet coke. My next thought was, Point taken.
    I am a woman of science and metaphysics has always seemed easily explainable to me. We are made of energy, everything is made of energy, our thoughts are made of energy, and it’s a simple concept to understand and it’s a simple explanation as to how everything is connected. Simply put, unconscious living leads to missing cues in life. If I hadn’t been involved in my negative thoughts I might have heard the ice shift and avoid the flood, or maybe I would have noticed the impending situation before it happened. It’s simple, but it’s clear. The message is reinforcing consciousness, the message is pay attention, the universe guides you, your intuition guides you, listen and it’s easy.
    I love your work, Martha. You are a gift.

  10. Amelia
    Amelia says:

    Martha, when you said: our hearts are being guided more benevolently and helpfully than I ever dreamed…. I GET IT!!! I had just went thru a 4 day phase of worry/stress/insomnia over upcoming events and the holidays on top of that. THEN yesterday on 12/12/12 I had a Perfect day! I believe you are exactly right, that I was being guided benevolently, I just woke up and went and everywhere I went and everything I did worked out. It was amazing! I did “nothing” which I think is key, we must “LET life flow & flourish”.
    I “see” now! Thank you Martha for helping me know what it was!

  11. Dorcas N
    Dorcas N says:

    Wonderful post, Martha. Thanks. I mused with a couple of wonderful friends last night on the nature of organizational and personal change. As we exchanged our stories, we recognized that the best and most long-lasting change came from enduring some profound hardship. So when we find ourselves crossing the rumble strip, part of the inner knowing can be, “this experience is going to change my life, and I will be stronger, happier, wiser.” While one still endures and suffers, this knowing feels like there is a life vest helping us ride out the storm.

  12. Susan
    Susan says:

    Dear Martha,
    While I generally agree with much of what you speak and write about, I am a bit puzzled on two points you make in this essay. First you tell us to trust our hearts and in order to learn further how to do that, we should read everything you have written. How are you an expert on my heart? Secondly, you indicate that if anything bad happens to us, we should then reconsider our assumptions and beliefs which certainly, in my experience, come from our heart and our inner compass. So are we to trust our selves completely, first, and then if it doesn’t work out, then question our inner compass? Or, should we question our inner compass and then trust it? On what basis are we to decide when we have it right, on your inner compass? And are we going in the right direction if we don’t get the rumble strip, or does the rumble strip ONLY happen when we are going in the WRONG direction? My experience tells me the rumble thing can happen to anyone at anytime, whether they are in synch with their inner compass, or not.
    Finally, I disagree that there are no road maps. Each of us comes from a religious background whether we adhere to it, believe in it or not. No culture has ever existed without belief in the invisible world. This has taken the form of belief in God, or belief in multiple gods, or belief in spiritual aspects of great nature. That these road maps to a meaningful life have been abused, dismissed, or misunderstood, is not the fault of the map.
    Direction and guidance surround us. How we recognize it, tap into it, listen to it, and act from it, is our greatest and most important quest. And always has been. Please do not dismiss the great contributions of men and women before us. They lived so that we might learn from them.

  13. Linda Ellis
    Linda Ellis says:

    My friend and I were talking last week and we’d both had so many “awful” (by ego terms) things happen, not just this year, but in the past couple of years…though this year seemed particularly tough. We thought of Queen Elizabeth when she was talking about the year Diana and Charles divorced, the telephone scandals, affairs, etc. and she used the term, “annus horribus.” I can’t think of a more appropriate term for what I and others are experiencing.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] ~Concepts to Calm and Comfort…Insight from Martha Beck […]

  2. […] our own day, life coach Martha Beck talks about using the heart as a compass to find “true north” as one’s real […]

  3. […] evening, I panicked – shedding tears into my Oprah Magazine. Yes, Martha Beck, I am on the Rumble Strip of Life’s Highway, you mind-reading […]

  4. […] in her post this weekend Martha Beck mentioned times like these, calling them rumble strips, “a barrage of seemingly unrelated catastrophes so severe you […]

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