When I was in Texas re-doing the Nia Blue Belt, most mornings I got up early to run in the (usually already-humid) morning air. On the long Soma Ranch drive, I saw birds and rabbits, deer and donkeys (the latter gave me quite the robust morning salutations) and a couple of times; I saw a beautiful box turtle hanging out on the side of the drive. She paused there as if wondering if she could make it across the road before the people woke up and started driving their cars.
I love turtles in part because they seem so implacable and cool, and in part given the depth of their imagery in our culture. The turtle often represents wisdom, self-sufficiency, persistence, patience and risk-taking. Turtles have been with me throughout my sabbatical and in the next three Focus Pocus posts, I’m going to Talk Turtle: Turtle In, Turtle Out and Turtle GO (that is, introspection, risk-taking and persistence).
The day I returned home from Blue Belt, my husband and step-son left for a week-long trip to Haiti to do a service project. They were taking off as I was landing, so I didn’t see them before they left. I told my friend and Nia trainer, Helen Terry how much I missed them and how sad I felt at the thought of a week at home alone. She kindly reminded me that our teacher and Nia co-founder, Carlos AyaRosas, invited us to take “Turtle Time.” He suggested that Turtle Time — taking time to go inward, be quiet and process, especially after a stimulating, complex or rich experience — is helpful and even essential to integrate and embody it.
Turtle Time. I remember stories that Carlos would tell about taking time to tuck in and see what came through. The original experience, he said, may well have been full of learning and information and Turtle Time can offer further refinement and insight.
So without planning it, I had some Turtle Time. I never would have chosen it, and there is was: a week alone. With Carlos in mind, I didn’t plan a whole lot. It was strange to be on my own so much and it was sometimes lonely…and it was great. The number of realizations and clarifications that either came to me or that I sorted out were astonishing. Don’t get me wrong, I was literally standing in the driveway waiting when their car pulled in. I had missed them terribly and I was ready for them to be home. And the Universe was smarter than I to arrange things to give me some Turtle Time.
First, I realize that Turtle Time gets back to the practice of mindfulness and meditation that I’ve been writing about in Focus Pocus for months. Meditation teachers often use the imagery of the startled or stimulated mind as a pond that has been stirred up. In the stirred-up state, leaves and dirt and mud are all swirling in the water, and if we just let it be still for a while, all of the crap settles down and the water itself is clear again. That happened for me during that week of Turtle Time: the simple act of quieting down allowed me to see and think and process more clearly.
Second, when I have “flooded” myself with ideas and experiences, when I have allowed myself to take in a variety of sensations, I find that I’m ripe for drawing insight and connection. After I’ve saturated myself with receiving and I get quiet and grounded, I get clarity. I have conversations with the people who ask the right questions. I read a blog that sparks a connection. I hear a song and the lyrics explain something that I didn’t understand before. When I look for what is essential with the intention of clarifying, there it is.
Quieting the mind helps me find clarity. And “flooding” myself with experience makes the soil ripe for receiving insight. And there is something else that’s happening in Turtle Time. Something unseen and a little bit magic. Maybe a lot magic.
In The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho wrote, “And when you want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” I love that, “the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Have you ever felt this? In the past few weeks, I have. Almost as if little wings are flapping and gears are turning to help me get what I need and know what I need to know.
I know, I know. It can sound kind of woo-woo and at the very least, counter-intuitive. How would “turtle-ing” in help us make connections and have insights about our outward circumstances? How is it that wanting something and focusing on it sets unseen forces into motion to help make it so? It sounds crazy … and this has been my experience. This is the magic of inquiry and intent: preparing the soil, planting lots of seeds and then getting quiet, settling down and waiting for what shows up.
So give yourself some Turtle Time this week. Even if it’s just five minutes of settling down and getting quiet and seeing what grows. It may feel self-indulgent, or pointless. And I think it’s worth experimenting. My experience is that Turtle Time is a powerful and direct way to get to the heart of the matter.