It would be easy for me to insist that you read anything by Martha Beck on the grounds that she is a life changer and leave it at that. And if you’re short on time, just take my word for it and read no further. But if you’d like to know why I hitch my wagon to the brilliance that somehow translates from Martha’s (yes, I’m going with her first name because I feel fairly sure she’s cool like that) mind and experience onto paper or in the case of her blog updates the virtual world of the Internet then please, read on.
One dark and snowy winter I was in need of some reassurance, some guidance and that kind of firm clasp on the shoulder partnered with a knowing look that says, “Everything is going to be alright. We’re connected, all of us in this world, and together we’ll see that sun rise once again.” I can’t exactly recall the chain of events that led me to Martha Beck, it could have been that she was mentioned by another author or perhaps some anonymous shopper on Amazon bought one of her books along with whatever I was browsing. But I do know that I stumbled into her becoming a part of my life, either as a coincidence or something greater that was simply meant to be at exactly the right time.
I have since read, listened, watched and read: books, audiobooks, videos and magazine articles, respectively, anything and everything I’ve been able to get my hands on. Her catalogue of achievements is extensive including several New York Times Best sellers, a few Harvard degrees, professor-hood, Life Coach, speaker, catalyst for global change and from what I can tell a stellar mother. Oh and she occasionally hangs out with leopards, elephants and rhinos. You know all in a day’s work. But I’m not listing this to impress, but more to illustrate that she has quite a bit of living, achieving and at times, I’m sure, failing to draw upon.
Martha’s most recent work of non-fiction Finding your Way in a Wild New World:Reclaim your True Nature to Create the Life You Want took hold of me one evening as I sat down to read and didn’t let go. Suddenly Africa, the Karoo in particular, was EVERYWHERE. White lions, leopards and elephants appeared in my life just as I took the first step toward awakening my true nature by dropping into wordlessness. I am sure they’d be there all along, I just didn’t notice.
As Martha outlines four main steps, starting with wordlessness, toward uncovering your true nature, she weaves in various trips to Africa where she works with Life Coaching Clients and others as they safari, track, meditate and otherwise discover the magic of Africa and the magic within.
“Menders of all times and places have taught that silencing the thoughts in our heads and opening to the experience of the body and emotions is the basis of all healing. It’s the only means by which we can reclaim our true nature or feel the subtle cues telling us how to find our way through life.” Martha recommends the practice of dropping into this space of wordlessness, similar to meditating, which I have found incredibly, what’s the right word? Therapeutic? Calming? Ah yes, healing. The constant dialog, stream of thought, story that our minds reel on and on act as a sort of din that distracts us from dropping into a deeper more meaningful way of being, our true nature by involving us in all kinds of stories, especially about our past, our faults, how inadequate and inept we are and on and on, day and night. I’m not saying our minds are at all “bad,” see those are just more words, more incessant and unnecessary chatter. The solution? Sure hear it out, give your mind some time to drone on and on and then it is quiet time be with the breath, be in the body, and just be. It is irresistibly soothing.
Martha also says that, “Clients can’t think their way out of problems caused by thinking.” So dropping by into wordlessness that place silent of thought, solutions might naturally arise. This takes work, trust and more work, but if everything we've tried has failed, caused more problems or simply doesn’t feel right, giving it a try isn’t such an odd venture. I like to ask myself, when I find myself getting particularly irritated by a nagging problem that isn’t being resolved by thinking it through, repeatedly, “How’s that working out for you?” The answer is most usually, “It isn’t.” So I go 180 degrees in the opposite direction…in other words, silence, meditation, wordlessness.
Martha also weaves in poetry by the notable Mary Oliver and cites studies, her own experiences with clients and her time spent in Africa at a game preserve called Londolozi, a Zulu word meaning, “protector of all things” and I am coming to think of Martha as the title holder of that moniker. By way of the practices and skills she offers readers to unearth our own true nature, she’s instructing us to protect ourselves, our true nature from ever being hidden, buried or otherwise lost again.
As I was reading this book I got ahold of the June edition of O Magazine where I’d forgotten Martha Beck was a regular contributor. As I happily turned pages enjoying articles about the notion of home (one of my subjects of study) women who surf (another favorite- see the animals of the safari are everywhere, even within) I arrived at a sort of map outlining a tangible way to “Charting your Life,” written by none other than Ms. Beck herself. Joy! It seemed to dovetail very nicely with the Finding your Way in a Wild New World as it described an activity similar to creating a vision board or in this case a series of vision boards that very distinctly help you map out your life. I got started and seem to have some physical navigational tools to add to the more internal practices outlined in Finding your Way in a Wild World. How convenient Martha- thanks!
A few days later, it appears the universe gives me a period of time between Martha doses to assimilate what I’ve learned, a friendly blog update arrived in my inbox. In this post she gently reminded us self-improvement types (and I don’t use that term disparagingly, I think we owe it to ourselves to be the best person we can be and however you do that, kudos. You’re helping to make the world, not just yourself a better place) that just as we are the author of our story it is almost equally important how we actually tell our story. That is, how we describe our lives either with negative or positive language translates to what we believe about ourselves. Powerful stuff.
And then…if that weren’t enough Martha (I’m not sure you can have too much Martha) I got another email (if you do subscribe, don’t worry she doesn’t litter your inbox, but rather sends emeralds and rubies.) She is matching funds for educational efforts in rural Africa through the Good Work Foundation. Check it out here and make a pledge!
Oh and the other thing you should know about Martha Beck, she is funny as h***. I mean it, as seriously as I find myself focusing on attaining my highest self, bringing light to the shadows, redistributing my mental energy, she brings me back to planet earth with a kind of levity that leaves me laughing out loud.
Virtual Martha Beck which will lead you to tangible Martha Beck items like speaking events, life coaching, teleseminars, articles, books and more: