Waddle with me. What I'm learning from a Penguin.

Waddle with me. What I'm learning from a Penguin.

I’m an unapologetic introvert. Being alone to recharge my soul is deliciously familiar to me. I relish my time with other people, but the thing I look forward to most is the space to process, integrate and prepare for what the universe has in store.

Lately, the cacophony of our world feels like it has gotten so much louder. No amount of alone time can make any of this make sense. Syria. This suffering planet. Our fear-gripped, disconnected nation.

My therapist calls it my struggle with reality testing. I call it “what the fuck is wrong with people.”

Whatever works.

One of the things I don’t do when I feel assaulted by life is write. Although it’s one of the most helpful ways through the pain, my resistance to it can be pretty remarkable.

Eventually, my animal spirit guides bug me enough to force me to return to the keyboard. It’s their job to teach us stuff. And they remind me that it’s kind of my job to listen, and share what I can. Not many people are paying attention, and I owe it to our brothers and sisters of other species to do my best.

So. Last week I decided to book a trip to Antarctica. And I’m pretty excited about it.

As I was sharing the news of this adventure, I was met with a few funny faces and “Antarctica in February? Why?”

I was really surprised that I couldn’t come up with an answer. I genuinely wasn’t sure why I had decided to do this.

And I started to wonder if maybe I was attempting to run away. If I go to the actual end of the Earth, might I find some respite from the insanity of humanity?

Of course I can’t escape reality with the swipe of a passport. But travel has been my savior. It’s something I can do to pry open my world and expand my perspective when everything else feels like it’s contracting.

Then. Today. A-ha. I heard a whisper from an animal spirit guide and now my South-Pole seeking is starting to make some more sense.

Hello, Penguin. You wonderful bird.

When it comes to enduring harsh environments. No one rules like the Antarctic Penguin. They live in the most extreme conditions of any warm-blooded animal on Earth. They travel incredible distances and dodge serious predators to feed their families. To call their home inhospitable is an understatement. I’m talking 80 degrees below zero kind of cold.

Check out just a few things these smart birds have to teach us.

We’re better together. One of the key survival mechanisms Penguins have is called “the huddle.” Thousands of them come together to hug it out. They can raise the group air temperature by more than 50 degrees in less than two hours by getting connected. These huddled colonies, up to several thousand Penguins, are always moving together in unison to protect the overall well-being. Every huddlemember of the colony rotates position to take his or her turn occupying the outer perimeter where conditions are the worst. Together, not separate, is the key to our survival, too.

There is more than one way to fly. Yep. They’ve got wings. But you won’t see them in the air. Apparently, they gave up that function millions of years ago. Instead, they have evolved their wings to help them fly through the water at speeds up to 25 miles an hour. Their eyes work better in water than in the air, and they can stay under water for up to 20 minutes. And have you seen how they slide across the ice and snow on their bellies? It’s fantastic. It’s called tobogganing and apparently they do it for fun and efficient travel. It’s like flying across the ice.

So. When you feel like you just weren’t built for this place. And maybe you just don’t operate like you think you should. Remember, innovation is in your DNA. Make like Penguin, and find another way to fly.

Each of us has an epic journey in us. It can take several weeks and more than 300 miles through the most brutal weather for the Penguin to go bobsleigh_penguinsfishing. (Sometimes, in winter, I can’t get myself to walk one block to Coast to pick up my sushi.)

With incredible inner strength, the Penguin shows us we can make it farther than we might think possible. During seemingly intolerable months of extreme conditions, the female Penguin embarks on her heroine’s journey to find food for her family. Papa Penguin sits for two months or more on their egg awaiting her return.  They bravely accept this fantastic, grueling experience — even when they can’t see beyond the very next step.

You are so brave. Trust there is a reason. Although you can’t see the entire path and it seems too arduous, there is a purpose to the journey. Even when there’s a total white out, just focus on the next step and know that Spirit will bring you the guidance you need, when you need it. 

So my trip to Antarctica isn’t a running away. I’m headed there to meet some teachers,  and study how to waddle my way through a hostile world from the very best.

Let’s make like Penguins and do this, together.

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