Have you heard the story of a scientist who once gave a public lecture on astronomy? She described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, someone at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” was the reply. “But it’s tortoise all the way down!”
This old joke running through my mind lately, because in some ways that person in the back of the room was right, from a different point of view. Our personal worlds are built on our life experiences, beliefs and values, each one an ancient tortoise. When we face a life event, or a choice, we make decisions based on those tortoises. Our life is stable when those tortoises are stable. But when we face cognitive dissonance, our tortoises are uneasy, rocking on each other’s back, and we feel the earth shift under us.
No one really enjoys an earthquake, especially one that rocks our core beliefs. However, at times it is useful to challenge those tortoises to shift, or even disappear. Every change in our life brings up our old scars. Those tortoises hold on to the voices in our head and wounds in our hearts from our childhood and life journey. We start a new career or meet a new love and the old tortoise of past judgment shakes his head. Or perhaps we want to change our relationship with money and the old tortoise of family values closes her eyes and sighs. We do not want to hurt these tortoises, but we so crave a new life.
There is a lovely way to release the message from these tortoises. We can acknowledge their place in our life, thank them for their lessons, and help them move back toward the sea or forest, carrying with them the old fears and hurts. When we realize that they were never meant to hold up our world we can set them free. And in turn, free ourselves from the fears and judgments of others.