Scared? Smart? It’s a Wild World

Martha Beck spoke at Changing Hands bookstore tonight, and packed so much information, power, inspiration, laughter and honesty into just over an hour, that I took notes faster than an Angry Bird slingshots at a green pig.

Her new book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World is subtitled Reclaiming Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want. It’s not only a mouthful, it’s a mindful. And maybe a heartful.

Martha spoke about fear in a fascinating way. She was learning to track rhinoceros and as most trackers, followed footprints that led through the bush in South Africa. She kept her eyes glued to the ground as the tracks grew less visible until she heard a companion gasp. Looking up for the first time she realized that she was within 20 feet of a mother rhinoceros and her baby. And the mother rhino was angry.

Martha Beck at Changing Hands bookstore.

Martha is a slight woman, and could have easily been trampled to death. What happened in the next second was that she thought she was going to die, and felt a wave of fear and panic. And then she wondered about the two questions that form the cornerstone of the book–“How the hell did I get here?” and “What the hell should I do now?”

instead of being filled with fear and panic, Martha realizes that this second fulfills a lifelong dream of adventure, being fully engaged in the natural world, and living in the moment with friends. Were she to die, it would be with a “joyful pounding heart.”

As she was standing in front of us, she did not die, (and the way the story concludes–it’s in Chapter 1– is worth the price of the book) but she knows that each life has an angry rhino, and we all must bring ourselves to decide what to do in that moment of truth.

After the rhino encounter and its amazing resolution, Martha spent the next five years speaking to many people in many cultures so she could answer those two cornerstone questions. She realized that the answers she heard from wise women, shaman, medicine men (and women) were the same–that all of us on earth are facing huge change–economic, climatic, geographic, historic, and cultural. This change is roaring down on us like a giant wave. We can either drown in it or surf through it. If we want to survive, we have to become surfers skilled in surviving change.

I had an image of a tiny nimble figure negotiating through the curl of a giant wave with wits and grace. It made a great image of survival, always staying ahead of the crushing wave, and feeling exhilaration in your own skill.

She spoke of our basic mission while we are here on earth–healing the earth. I wrote about it recently as the mystical ideal of Tikkun Olan (Hebrew for healing the world.) It’s one of my favorite images–that each of us is not only capable, but bound to heal what we can–the ecosystem, our hearts, the pain of others.

“Our culture trained us to be factory workers–to sit still and take limited action when we were created to solve huge problems as they occur, spontaneously,” she told us.

Her book explains the four steps that contain the wisdom she gathered during her years of research:

  • Wordlessness
  • Oneness
  • Imagine That Which Has Never Existed
  • Forming (not forcing) your art, your life

I’m looking forward to reading her book, not just as a reader, but as a life coach who knows that each of us can have a fulfilling life, rather than a life of drudgery and soul-snuffing work.

Quinn McDonald agrees with Benjamin Franklin who said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

18 thoughts on “Scared? Smart? It’s a Wild World

  1. Her talk sounds fascinating. I’ve been working to read The Joy Diet, but it’s a hard book to move through. Is her new book more of a read through, or does it have practices throughout it? Oh wait, you probably haven;t read it. Well, I’ll check it out — sounds like a book I would like to read. Martha Beck is a such a good writer and she has so many thought provoking ideas.

  2. Quinn,
    I am a huge Martha Beck fan so what you shared here had my attention. I appreciate Martha’s humor and deep insight. I’m looking forward to reading her new book as well.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and what you learned. Heartful, indeed.

  3. Oh, now I’m so bummed that I didn’t go hear her! Thanks for the review. This is going on my shopping list now as well. I’ve loved the articles of hers that I’ve read over the years so I know I will get a lot from the book.

    • She’s very inspiring. She sure didn’t get a lot of support from her family–and she never lay down and said, “Oh, I can’t do this because I had a bad childhood.” She is so very inspiring.

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