Life is such a paradox, isn’t it?
Here I am, sitting out on my balcony, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and watching the lights twinkle around Banderas Bay while I listen to “Guru Ram Das” by Snatam Kaur on repeat. I’m feeling such overwhelming gratitude for my life. I”m feeling such incredible love for the souls with whom I had the privilege of sharing the past week. I’m feeling eager to go home and see my boys and I’m feeling excited to get back to the work I love so much… I am so unbelievably fortunate and yet, mixed in with all of those wonderful feelings, is also a bit of sadness. It’s the human tendency to want to hold on to things that bring us joy and this year’s retreat certainly did offer lots of that. It was intimate. It was transformational. It was “home”.
The theme of this year’s retreat was “Living Effectively as a Conscious, Multidimensional Being” and we explored, in depth, what “consciousness” actually means.Because of this, I’d like to share with you an experience that helped me put into perspective the challenges of learning to live with greater consciousness.
On the first day I arrived in Puerto Vallarta, I felt drawn to the Ocean in a way that I never have before. I sat on the beach and watched the surf roll in and imagined what it would be like to become part of it, in the same way that meditation allows us to connect to the “sea” of greater consciousness. As I contemplated the vastness and the power of the “great being” before me, a feeling crept up on me that I had never been aware of before. I realized that I was actually afraid of her.
“Great Ocean”, I said silently, “I have immense respect and reverence for you but, I have to admit, you intimidate me. I’m afraid of stepping into you because you are so big and powerful and full of mystery”.
“What scares you?”, she asked.
“Interestingly”, I answered, “It’s not that i’m afraid of drowning. It’s more that I am afraid of getting so far out on my own that I will never be able to get back.”
The sea did not comment and, instead, invited me to come closer.
I approached her slowly, feeling the smooth, wet sand beneath my feet as the weight of my body caused me to sink down and leave my distinct, yet temporary mark upon the beach.
I stood, hesitating, just close enough to feel her presence but still not ready to move in any further.
“It’s ok”, she whispered. “You belong here. And you know what to do.”
It was true. As if someone had coached me, I instinctively knew that, in order to enter the Ocean safely, I had to pay attention to her rhythm. “Be gentle”, I said. “Make it easy on me”. And she did.
The next few waves were subtle and slow. I moved forward with ease and swam over them until I reached a place where I could just float effortlessly. Even though the swells were pretty big, I became a part of them. I was buoyant and I felt safe enough to enjoy the ride.
“Thank you”, I said. “This is really nice”.
The sea just chuckled.
A few days later, while some of us were sitting near the beach during one of our breaks, we were alerted by some yelling as a man was being rescued from the ocean a few hundred feet away. He had been swimming alone, just as I had a few days before, and the Ocean had overcome him. I was quite amazed that this could happen only a few feet from shore. Thankfully, he was ok, but it was a momentarily jarring experience, to say the least.
The following day, I was invited to join a friend to swim in the ocean, once again. I had told her about the man I saw rescued the previous day and she agreed that the Ocean is incredibly powerful and must absolutely be respected. She said that she never enters without first saying a prayer. As we walked toward the beach with several other friends, I was thinking about my spontaneous “conversation” with the sea a few days before and how it seemed to work well in terms of me getting in and out fairly easily. As I was contemplating what I might say to the Ocean this time, I heard the words “Gracias madre mare” in my head. I don’t speak spanish but I know enough to know that those works mean (basically) “Thank you, mother of the sea”. “Cool”, I thought. that sounds like a pretty good prayer” and in I went.
I managed to navigate the waves in a similar fashion as before and was swimming happily as the swelling waves carried me. My friends had swam out several hundred feet beyond me but I didn’t feel confident enough to go that far yet. I was just happy to be bobbing around, fairly close to shore. I was facing inland and enjoying the ride when a friend, who was still standing on the beach , made a motion as if to tell me to look behind me. As I turned my head, I saw a gigantic wave coming at me and, before I had a chance to even think, it swept over me. I tried to “go with the flow” as I was sloshed around but, the next thing I knew, the Ocean dragged me under with an unbelievable force. I had a flash of panic and then I heard a voice say: “It’s ok. You’re submerged now, but in a moment you’re head will be above water again. When that happens, stand up and walk as fast as you can”.
Just then, as quickly as she had taken me down, the Ocean spit me out again and when she did, I did exactly as I was told and scrambled my way back onto shore. My knees were scraped and bleeding from being smashed against the rocks but, otherwise, I felt fine. As I emerged, the others on the beach all came rushing over to see if I was ok.
I caught my breath and told them what I had experienced and they, in turn, shared what they had witnessed which, according to them, was pretty alarming. They were quite amazed at how calm I was coming out of it.
I told them about the voices I had heard and wondered aloud about what the experience was meant to teach me. It seemed surprising to me that this should happen, especially since I seemed to have the skill and blessing of the sea a few days ago and had been given what sounded like the perfect prayer to say before I went in this time.
Just then, another friend, who had been in the group that swam out farther, was coming out of the water. The others told her what had happened and, being an avid surfer, she explained that, because I had decided to stay closer to shore, I actually put myself at greater risk of being pulled under.
I Immediately realized that I had actually enacted the fear that I had identified the first day. I had been afraid of going out too far in case I couldn’t get back and because of that, I had put myself in the most vulnerable position possible.
As I’ve learned that “how we do anything is how we do everything”, I understood that this experience was there to teach me that my fear of “going too far or too deep” is not only preventing me from moving into a greater, expanded consciousness but it is actually putting me at risk of being pulled under and sucked back into the very cycle that I’m working so hard to move away from.
I’m very grateful for my sacred dance with “Madre Mare” and for the lesson that she taught me. I will be sure to pay closer attention to where I choose to “float” from here on out.
All Blessings To You,