A friend of mine once said that we can learn some spiritual lessons from turtles.
First of all, did you know that when you pick up a turtle going one way (north, for example) and turn it around so that it is going the opposite direction, the turtle will just pull itself inside its shell, turn around, and go the way it was originally going?
So many times, human beings allow circumstances or other people to dictate which direction we will go next We get off track, go off course. We allow fear to hold us back, or force us to change our plans and take a safer course. One of the hallmarks of a person who is awakened, spiritually, is the strength to carry on, in spite of our fears, and the ability to persevere despite difficulties that would bring others to their knees or immobilize them altogether. If we were more like turtles, we would be able to take life in stride more often. Sure, we might move along slowly and cautiously – turtles do that. But we would get to our destination in the end, and that’s what counts, isn’t it?
Next, in order for turtles to move ahead, they must stick their neck out of their shell.
For us, the expression “sticking one’s neck out” has come to be synonymous with taking a risk, or venturing to offer an opinion that others may not agree with, or express something that others are afraid to say out loud. Very often, the only way for us to move forward in life is to take a risk, to step out on faith. Of course, the best kind of risk is a calculated one, where we are pretty sure what the dangers are, and we have done all that we could do to minimize them. As well, we know that risk can be offset by study and preparation, doing our homework, having as much information at our fingertips as we can. We believe in ourselves and our power to overcome the obstacles. We know, as well, that we have a lot of unseen help offered by the Universe, (or God, if you wish to personalize IT), which comes in many forms, and in often unexpected ways. All we have to do is ask, and the help will come. But we have to do our part, and that’s the preparation and then…jump, take the risk. When we do this, we set all kinds of synchronicities in motion that are very real, albeit hard to explain. We just have to stick our necks out at least once in every lifetime. That’s all there is to it.
Finally, we know that although the turtle moves slowly, it ultimately gets to its destination. In other words, “slow and steady wins the race.”
Sometimes we let our impatience get the best of us, and we end up doing things – or failing to do things – in our haste. Sometimes we just needlessly and thoughtlessly step on other people’s toes in our hurry to get to our destination or achieve our goals. The other day a fellow was driving behind me and because the road was a little slick, I was driving slowly. He was tailgating me badly, and I could feel the vibrations of his anger in the car behind me. There were two lanes, and I was driving in the left lane, because I was going to make a left turn eventually. In exasperation (just going by the vibes, mind you), he passed me on the right, gunned his motor and sped ahead of me, then pointedly got back into the left lane just ahead of me, but not for long, because when he got to the next intersection, he made a left turn. Four or five seconds after he made his turn, I passed that same intersection. I noticed that he turned into the very first driveway on the right after making the turn; that’s how close to home he was. Of course, nothing negative came of it, but since the road was slick, he could have endangered not only himself, but everyone who was driving behind him on that road. As it was, he probably just raised his own blood pressure a little bit. And for what? A gain of five seconds? I’m guessing he probably lost the five seconds somewhere else, complaining, if not about me, then about someone or something else. Angry people tend to do that. Anyway, the point is this: haste may not always make waste, but it doesn’t always get you that much ahead. You can probably give me at least two ways that haste has actually done some real harm in your own life. Go ahead and think about it. I can wait.
But there’s a fourth lesson, one that I just realized when I saw this neat quote from Anita Moorjani, author of Dying to Be Me, My Journey from Cancer to Near Death to True Healing. Here’s the quote:
Heaven is a state, not a place. Our true home is a way of living, not a location. It makes no difference whether we are here or in the other realm. Our real home is within each of us and follows us wherever we go.
Doesn’t that sound like a turtle’s shell to you? A turtle’s shell is its home, and it carries its home everywhere it goes. Moorjani is saying that our true home, heaven, is just like a turtle’s shell, only we don’t carry it on our backs. We carry it inside of us. What a concept! What does this mean?
If you carry heaven with you, then you have the ability to be happy all the time. You are constantly in the presence of God, and always walking on holy ground. You have it in your power to be successful in life. You are an important part of God’s creation, and you are infinitely, unconditionally loved.
Pretty amazing, don’t you think?
So from now on, when I think of turtles, I will be thinking of four lessons, rather than only three. The day I first heard my friend’s little talk about turtles, I had just bought a cute little stuffed turtle from a Hmong craft shop, and I thought it a “coincidence” that I had bought a little blue turtle on the same day that I heard a talk about the spiritual lessons afforded by turtles. Little did I know that there are no coincidences, only synchronicities. 🙂