Not surprisingly, my daily reading of Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening guides me back from Turtle Row. It has been a restful stay but it is not my place.
As wondrous as the world is on Turtle Row—my current name for respite–it cannot pass as living fully. For respite, necessary as it may be, allows me to remove myself from the physical space that is my place on this planet.
In short, I am not a turtle, tempting though it may be. It seems such a fine existence, and it is, for turtles.
For some years now, I have been on a solitary search for awareness but my physical presence has been more of an afterthought, if considered at all. I did not ignore my physical self—I have lost a considerable amount of weight eating whole, mostly fresh, foods—I have done extensive research on autoimmune disease and have had considerable success with supplements, lifestyle changes, and diet.
I built my body up but its presence lagged; my solid, physical foundation was but a shadow. As usual, Nepo explains it best, “…the ways of others will fill the space we live in if we don’t fill that space with our own authentic presence.”
In short, I became a turtle and believed such an existence would suffice. As I said, the view from Turtle Row is wondrous, and because I am not a turtle, I understand that I “do need to be here the way a cliff accepts a wave.” Not that I have to shout my presence or tax my body but within and without I must be whole, my consciousness complete.
I return to posting on this blog after a three-week hiatus. It has been a remarkable three weeks in every way. First and foremost, a heartfelt thanks for all the thoughtful comments and good wishes that you left on my last post. Although I did not post a response to your comments, please know I read your words frequently.
In addition, most of you know I am involved in a sixteen month course of study involving the major authentic ancient traditions, primarily Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Buddhism, and Taoism. Through these traditions, the course considers what it is it within us–physically, spiritually, emotionally—that gives us a way to change our lives, to build ourselves up by eliminating symptoms.
In short, the course does not encourage turtle behavior.
In the weeks to come, some of my posts will discuss what I am discovering. Mostly, I am reminded of William Stafford’s “A Ritual To Read To Each Other” as posted at writersalmanac.publicradio.org. in 2001.
A Ritual To Read To Each Other
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give—yes or no, or maybe—
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
And so, dear reader, we continue.
*“A Ritual To Read To Each Other,” by William Stafford from Stories That Could Be True: New and Collected Poems (Harper & Row).