Turn on the Stars

I was steeped in writer’s block, boosting my self-esteem by rescuing bears in Candy Crush, when my daughter phoned with the news. You’ve probably heard by now, but I just have to write it down myself: Scientists have discovered that when dung beetles roll their balls of animal feces at night, they navigate by looking at the Milky Way!

I know what you’re thinking: Thank God some intrepid scientists asked themselves, as we all do, “How the hell do dung beetles navigate at night?” And thank God these scientists did not remain on the couch playing Candy Crush! No, they took a bunch of dung beetles to a planetarium, where they let them see different simulated night skies: some dark, some with stars visible, some showing only the Milky Way. And here’s what they found out:


*Dung beetle path illustration from Current Biology (Volume 23, Issue 4). http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982212015072

Is this not cool, I ask you? Dung beetles who can see the stars (specifically the Milky Way) roll their poo-balls in fairly straight lines. Those that can’t just wander around haphazardly, probably trying to think of something interesting to write.

I take great comfort from this information, because I basically spend all my time rolling around a big ball of poo called My Life. I arise, make the bed, brush my teeth, and sometimes show up at my computer to work. But most of the time, like today, I don’t feel I’m making any significant progress toward anything. I’m just pushing my poo-ball around, hoping no one notices that I have no idea where I’m going.

Today I have a gimpy back and not much pep. In five hours I’ve written maybe a thousand words on my current book. A few hundred of them may even be useable. Today the ball of poo feels huge, and my progress infinitesimal. It’s enough to make you just stop rolling.

I had to lie down to process all this, which of course means I’m accomplishing even less than before. But then I had a thought. I am not only a dung beetle pushing a sphere of crap; I am also a human, who can take the beetle to a planetarium and show it the stars.

I know how to do this, I’d just forgotten. I forget all the time, even though it’s a ridiculously basic instruction. When I’m moving in random patterns, not getting anywhere or accomplishing anything, I have to stop pushing my ball of poo. I can leave my life alone for a minute—I’m not making any progress anyway.

Once I’ve stopped pushing, I have to go to the planetarium, and the door to the planetarium is stillness. In stillness, we humans can do all kinds of magic our dung beetle selves can’t even comprehend. Once I get still, I can feel for the action that—right here, right now, for me—will turn on the stars. I can recognize it by my feelings. Anything I can think of that lifts me, that makes me feel relief, or relaxation, or just a little bit of joy, is the starry blur of the Milky Way. It may not be very clear or very bright, but I can navigate by it.

Today, the Milky Way appeared when I confessed my fear of accomplishing nothing to a loved one. I got a wonderful hug, and a comment: “Honey, you’re thinking work is important. But that’s not what you’re feeling. What are you feeling?” And just like that, I knew that watching a movie with my family and cuddling our new dog was my path. And here’s the funny, counterintuitive thing that always happens when I turn on the stars: as soon as I committed to doing what brightened my inner world, my writer’s block went away.

I am steering this poo ball like a mofo.

I know I’ll lose the stars again. I know I’ll wander aimlessly, feeling exhausted by all my shit. But I swear next time I’m going to do better. I’ll get still sooner, feel for my own joy more carefully, and do whatever lights up the Milky Way in the little messed-up planetarium that is my mind.

P.S. We will soon be releasing the details for African Star 2018: A Self-Transformation Adventure Retreat where the milky way is so close you can hear it singing to your soul. If you want to be sure to get them right away jump over here and sign up for the first-to-know list.


17 replies
  1. Lanny
    Lanny says:

    That's a cool fun fact : )
    I really enjoy reading this post. Thank you, Martha.
    The Milky Way appears for me when I go outside and walk or jog on less beaten trails.

  2. Patricia Kennedy
    Patricia Kennedy says:

    Please keep doing what you do. Your shit is awesome! 🙂
    My inbox is filled with stuff every day and your Daily Inspirations is always the first thing I read. I just finished reading Diana, herself and found it to be a life path guide. Working through the tasks.
    Please know that your work has impact on a great number of people.
    Love and Light,
    Patty Kennedy

  3. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    Martha, thank you for everything. I'm 80 years old and have figured out a lot by doing things the hard way, (that didn't work) and wish I'd found you sooner. I read you for sheer enjoyment.

  4. Elle Echo
    Elle Echo says:

    Hi Martha–
    Thank you so much for this! It is brightening me as we speak! I laughed a lot, & felt my heart grow warm & safe.

    I can't begin to tell you how much you mean to me & have meant to me through the years. Your beautiful spirit & your beautiful work have changed, & continue to change my life.

    Thank you for helping us all see, & feel the stars.

  5. Pat Donovan
    Pat Donovan says:

    Dear Martha,
    As a recent graduate of your life coaching school I appreciate all that share with us. I'm looking around me at the tsunami of change, the hurricane, fires, floods, and violence and it feels a little like "end of days". So my important question is when will the second book in your trilogy be released, because I need to read some good fiction and soon! I'm re-reading The Wind in the Willows and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy while I wait. Please release it soon!

  6. Sonja S.
    Sonja S. says:

    Thank you! I laughed and cried at the same time because what you described here is exactly what I've been feeling for awhile. Thanks for the "realness" in what you shared. It reminds me that we are all in this together, trying to find our way thru this shadowy labyrinth called life. Sharing our humanness is truly a bonding experience.

  7. Joanna Lawson
    Joanna Lawson says:

    Oh Martha, I soo love your writing. I just read this one to my partner, and he loves you too. He said I should write the following, since I just said it to him, and not for the first time! “ I am an English Psychotherapist and Ontological Coach in Iowa City for the last 30 years, and I would love to audition to read any of your wonderful writing for audiobooks. Please let me” with much love to you, Joanna Lawson

  8. Brie Lewis
    Brie Lewis says:

    I really struggle with finding a balance between living daily life and being present with the formless (oneness). It feels like I can only be doing one or the other. How do you take action, think, analyze and work while still remaining grounded in presence? The closest I can get is switching back and forth throughout the day but somehow I’m not able to weld the two into one. It’s either pushing poo or presence, never both at the same time.

  9. Richard
    Richard says:

    Inspiring honest and vulnerable writing – thank you Martha!

    Brie Lewis – a thought: try being present whilst pushing poo – might be the break through you're looking for 😉

  10. Amy Bingenheimer
    Amy Bingenheimer says:

    Thanks for keeping itt real! "I am steering this poo balk like a mofo". You're speaking my language! A movie & cuddling with a dog is the best. Take care!

  11. karen
    karen says:

    This is exactly what I needed to read!!!!!!! This is truly WORDS OF WISDOM explained in a simple ball of poop! LOVE LOVE LOVE! I stopped rolling my poo ball and took and yoga class this morning which helped greatly!

  12. Julie Lines
    Julie Lines says:

    Thank you Martha for this brilliant, brilliant post! I laughed loudly at this one! I love your message and so very funny too – what we need in this crazy world we are living in! Thank you so much.


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