Running With The Turtles

Back in the Spring of 2022, I wrote about Running With The Bunnies.* This is one of my favorite posts of all time, and it is worth a look if only to see the adorable baby bunny in the cover photo.

2024 appears to be the year of the Turtle for me.

As with the Bunnies post, I’ll offer a few life lessons:

  1. Enjoy life in all its mystery. There are gifts everywhere you look.
  2. Cultivate wonder.
  3. Play with the notion of a spirit animal to open new perspectives.

Discovering Turtles

A friend loaned me their copy of Medicine Cards – The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals, by Jamie Sams and David Carson. Whether the idea of spirit animals resonates with you or not, it is an interesting way to shift your perspective and view your life through an alternate lens.

I drew Turtle as my final card, my “Within” spirit animal. The description in the book resonated deeply with me and also gave me some fresh perspectives on my current way of being.

“Use the water and earth energies… to flow harmoniously with your situation and to place your feet firmly on the ground in a power stance.”

Since I began coaching, I have often described my life as in a state of flow. This description aligns with my core value of Teliodosis, integrating Being (flowing harmoniously) with Doing (placing your feet firmly on the ground).

There have been countless instances this year where my intuition has told me I need to be more patient. I learned a phrase from a friend that fit perfectly – don’t try to push the river. This phrase immediately entered my mainstream vocabulary. And then I read this in the book:

“Turtle warns of the dangers of ‘pushing the river,’ as evidenced by the plodding pace it keeps. The corn that is harvested before its time is not yet full. However if it is given the chance to develop at its own rate, in its own season, its sweetness will be shared by all.”**

What a beautiful perspective. Turtle is patient. Turtle wins the race against Bunny in the classic fable. When I take the perspective of the Turtle, I see the value in slowing down. I see that trying to push the river is a wasted effort and, if anything, reduces the likelihood of getting the result I’m working toward.

Every time impatience creeps in, and I find myself pushing the river, I connect with Turtle and allow myself to be water, flowing with the river instead.

Running With the Turtles

Unlike my Bunny encounters of 2022, which were ever-present and unavoidable, my Turtle encounters have been more deliberate. As I embrace Turtle and their gift of patience, I want to spend more time with Turtle.

I began by adding Bullfrog Pond as a regular stop on my running route. This community pond is home to numerous aquatic Turtles. I’ve even invested in Turtle food to feed them when I visit. Spending a few minutes with Turtles brings me joy and helps me cultivate wonder.

Turtles at Bullfrog Pond

My time at Bullfrog Pond also inspired me to increase my trail running. To my surprise and delight, I’ve encountered at least one Turtle on every trail run over the past few weeks. A friend asked me if I was feeding these turtles, too. I had not brought Turtle food on my trail runs, but I changed that. This morning, I fed two turtles on the trail. Neither were courageous enough to eat while I waited, but hopefully, they got a tasty snack after I left.

Turtle with the food I offered

Neuroplasticity is at work here. I run on the trail, and I see Turtle. My brain begins to associate the trail with Turtle. Each trail run that includes a Turtle encounter reinforces the neural pathway that says, “If you want to see Turtle, go run on the trail.” This positive feedback loop is important as every encounter with Turtle gives me that all-important reminder to be patient.

Running With the Hawks

Through a playful exercise of wonder, Turtle has become a spirit animal for me. It has shifted my relationship with patience, and so I embrace the Turtle. It matters not whether that’s all happy coincidence or some mystical guidance of the Universe.

On the other hand, Hawk is a spirit animal that the Universe gave me in far more magical and mystical ways. Over the past few years, I have had countless Hawk encounters that step outside the realm of coincidence into synchronicity.

It started in the Fall of 2022. I was driving to dinner and saw Hawk on a road sign. They caught my attention, but I thought nothing of it.

The next day, on my morning run, I saw Hawk #2. This got me wondering. I spoke with a friend, and he suggested I look up Hawks as spirit animals. What I found in my casual internet searching was that Hawks could indicate an unfinished quest I need to fulfill.

On the third day, I saw Hawk #3. And in that moment, it was suddenly clear.

I recently ran the Chicago Marathon. My stretch goal was to run a 3:14 and qualify for the New York Marathon. My pace was strong through 20 miles, and it was clear I had the fitness to achieve it. However, my feet were killing me. I had to stop and walk for several miles.

When I saw Hawk #3, I knew immediately that I was supposed to run the Richmond Half Marathon and try again. I signed up that day.

The next day, I saw Hawk #4. This is a pattern I’ve noticed with the Universe. It takes three signs for me to get the message. When I do, the Universe usually gives me one last sign as a sort of gentle reassurance that I got it right.

I needed to run 1:32 at Richmond to qualify for New York—seven-minute miles. I just needed to count touchdowns (7 minutes, 14 minutes, 21 minutes, etc.). It was unusually hot, but I was in flow. I ran 1:30:12 and completed my quest.

Hawk visits me regularly. Sometimes, it has no meaning, but whenever I see Hawk, I pause and reflect on the moment to see if my intuition is telling me something.

I drafted this post in my head on a trail run. As I emerged from the trail, I shifted my thoughts from Turtle and considered weaving in the content you just read about Hawk. I felt a little winded, so I sat down to rest for a moment and just be. At that moment, a Hawk flew overhead and landed on the lights overlooking the baseball field before me.

Hawk was too far away to get a decent photo. As I moved closer, Hawk took flight. Not to fly away. To land somewhere closer. Hawk sat patiently while I took my photos despite Fish Crow’s best efforts to scare them away.

Hawk that visited me and Fish Crow trying to scare it off

Hawk told me to make this post a priority. If you’ve enjoyed it, you have Hawk to thank—and Turtle, of course.

Putting It Into Practice

Open yourself up to wonder and intuition.

  • Identify an animal you connect with and research what that animal represents as a spirit animal.
  • Assume that animal is your spirit animal. How does that shift your perspective? What wisdom can you take from it?
  • Learn from Turtle. Don’t push the river. Be patient.
  • Learn from Hawk. Finish your quest.

I am an executive coach and life coach with software executive roots in higher education and EdTech. I coach because I love to help others accelerate their growth as leaders and humans. I frequently write about #management, #leadership, #coaching, #neuroscience, and #arete.

If you would like to learn more, schedule time with me.

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* It wasn’t until finishing this post that I realized Turtle played a prominent role in my Running With The Bunnies post as well. Perhaps some foreshadowing from the Universe.

** Three days after I drafted this blog post, my dear friend Giada published this one. In it, she talks at length about “pushing the river,” including a book I’d never heard of: “Don’t Push The River: It Flows By Itself,” by Barry Stevens.

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