Embrace Your Pace: Life Lessons from the Turtle
“I’m procrastinating,” I said. “It’s my inner nemesis.” As soon as I said it, I got a stomach ache, like I was revealing and also judging an integral part of myself.
And, my brilliant writer friend said, “Process is tricky.” Ah, you said a mouthful there, sister.
A few days earlier I'd received an intuitive reading from the wise Dina Strada. One of the hits she got was that “things are going to take longer than you think.” And, I thought, Grrr. How much longer? It feels like it’s taking forever for things to happen, as in career, love, body health, etc.
Then, she said, “Keep doing your work and surrender to your timing.” Ah. “You can’t rush it.” Double ah. It literally made me exhale. Rather than feeling more frustrating, it felt true.
I believe in divine timing and it’s something I discuss often with friends, colleagues and clients. And, I also often find myself trying to beat the clock, divine or otherwise.
Interestingly, the moment after Dina said it - you can’t rush it - the image of a turtle, a grand old tortoise, popped into my head. I mentioned it and it brought the intuitive message to a whole new level for me. Embracing my pace. Just like the tortoise.
Some lessons from the turtle
It sent me discovering, to see what kind of guidance the wise turtle has for me and other tortoise-like folk. Ted Andrews, in his book “Animal Speak”, says turtles symbolize longevity and wisdom. They’re in it for the long haul. “Long life and groundedness…on some level, the turtle knows it has all the time in the world.”
Lesson: She teaches us to look at our relationship with time. Where to slow down, to speed up, to surrender to the pause. Sometimes the pause is the best thing to serve the pace.
Turtles carry their homes on their backs. They never leave their home, but more importantly their home never leaves them. They already have everything they need to survive and thrive.
Lesson: Read previous sentence.
When a turtle gets flipped onto its back, everything gets tossed askew. But, the turtle literally uses its strong neck and head to lift and flip itself upright again.
Lesson: Trust your own wisdom and knowledge when in a bind. Use your head. And, don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t.
A turtle is opportunistic and takes her time to notice when an ample opportunity crosses her path. In the fable “The Tortoise and the Hare,” sometimes the hare is moving so fast, with her eye on the prize, that she misses opportunities as she whizzes by and she’s so busy trying outwit and outrun and to be the best, that she exhausts herself.
The tortoise is at her pace so she can slow down and seize moments to explore. She goes within herself, literally, to assess. The tortoise doesn’t try to be the hare or to buy into the hare’s latest online program, “Six Simple Steps to Win the Race Every Time.” That may work for the hare. This is not a judgment on the hare; the hare has a different process which works for the hare. But, it doesn’t work for everyone. The tortoise has the goal to cross the finish line too, but in a way that works within the tortoise framework. In a tortoise lane. On the tortoise clock.
It's funny, I often say, "I gotta light a fire under my butt," as way of motivating myself to move faster. Hmm, I wonder what would happen if you lit a fire under a tortoise's butt. Turtle soup? I'm just saying.
Lesson: It’s not about winning, because that often becomes about someone else’s race. Following someone else’s get-rich-quick scheme or shortcut to success may not work for you, at least not until you slow down enough to know what resonates and what feels right. For you.
The turtle is low to the ground and feels the vibrations of all that’s around her. It’s in that place that she trusts her pace, whether to speed up, slow down or pause.
Lesson: listen to your own vibrations and when you do listen to other's input, pause to listen to your own decision. Don’t be rushed.
There’s a shadow side to the tortoise energy. It’s using all of this as an excuse, relying simply on this knowledge that things happen as they happen, resting on laurels with the hope that somehow your brilliance will be discovered.
A wise healer said to me one time, “There’s no shortcut to enlightenment.” The same goes for trusting your own pace. Divine timing isn’t esoteric. It’s doing the work that pulls you, that’s in your heart, that’s in your lane. And, trusting that the next levels of enlightenment or success or completion will unfold at the right time, your right time.
Then, when it does happen, it’s deeper and richer and more meaningful, as well as being authentic.
I’ve experienced this over and over again in my lifetime. My family has always said I march to the beat of my own drummer. Yes, that’s true. That’s because I’m a frigging tortoise! I’m a slow build, in it for the long haul. And, what’s interesting, when there have been times of fast success or a quick leap up, I often have to pause to catch up with myself. Gotta say, the turtle does that too!
Watch the work, not the time
I recently watched a documentary about artisans in France, designers who create and supply the design houses with very specialized elements, like pleats. An entire company and all they make are pleats.
Or an outfit that creates only the tiny artificial flowers that adorn a larger design. This artist said, “It’s under my skin, this work. It takes a lifetime. And, there’s history behind it.”
One atelier, a milliner, who makes the most beautiful couture hats, struck me. He created a wooden mold in its completion in order to build the perfect hat. He said, “You don’t watch the clock. You watch the work. Every one takes the time it takes.” I’m guessing he’s a turtle too.
Embrace your pace
So, back to my friend’s comment about process being tricky, it’s so true. You can’t judge it. Sometimes, it isn't procrastination, it's a necessary element, part of the project or work's unfolding.
The freedom, the permission, is knowing that pace is part of the process. We turtles take our own sweet time, but we always get there.