Ever since childhood I have dreamed of swimming with dolphins. During my first retreat on the Big Island in Hawaii, I had the chance to snorkel near them in a local bay. Seeing wild dolphins up close was a life long dream fulfilled.
On my first day of snorkelling, the dolphins arrived; having been previously advised by a few friends, I’d been told not to approach the dolphins, but to simply continue snorkelling and ‘mind your own business.’ They are often curious about humans, will quite frequently swim over and check you out.
I was normally terrified of swimming in the ocean, and phobic of sharks, but on this day I felt completely safe, as if the dolphins were saying ‘It’s OK, we will protect you.’ At some point when I was swimming I could hear the chirps and whistles under the water, and the feeling of safety and calm strengthened. I looked up and could see their fins off in the distance, and decided I was close enough. Not wanting to disturb their personal space, I just floated where I was, waiting. My friend had asked me to stay close by, as he wasn’t a very strong swimmer, so I was keeping my eye on him. At some point we decided to float and meditate, in hopes that the dolphins would get curious and come over to see what we were doing. I started to enter a meditative state, and let my inner heart open, as if sending a message to the dolphins that I was happy to see them, and could almost immediately feel a deep love and joy come back to me.
About ten minutes passed, and I was starting to feel cold; I thought to myself, ‘Maybe I will just swim back. I got to hear them, and feel their love; that is enough for me.’ I was secretly wishing for a really close encounter, though.
When I looked up, I realized my friend had drifted off somewhere, and I could no longer see him. I had a moment of worry that he was in trouble, and I started to look all around to find him. I had the thought, ‘How will I ever find him in this huge ocean?’ Almost as soon as the feeling of distress arose, I heard a loud dolphin whistle; I looked down in the water and saw a dolphin right below me. Immediately my heart opened, and I felt a joy rush through my body like I had never experienced before. As it came to the surface for a breath, the dolphin moved right beside me, and looked me in the eye. For a moment the entire world stopped, everything became still and calm. It was as if he were telling me, ‘it’s OK, it will be all right, I am here.’ Instinctively I followed the dolphin; it was moving very slowly, and I was surprised at how easily I could keep up with it.
After following for a while, I could hear more chirps and whistles in the distance, and before I knew it the dolphin I was following was joining up with an entire pod. I stopped swimming and just floated in one spot, watching them all circling under me. After a few minutes I looked up, and was happy to see my friend’s head bobbing in the distance. Swimming over to him I noticed that he had made a few friends, and was alright. I was so relieved that I hadn’t lost him to the vast expanse of the ocean, that I didn’t even realize that the dolphin had led me to him. I had a moment of second guessing, wondering if it was a happy coincidence or if that dolphin had really come to me because of my distress.
After some more time in the water and the wonderful experience of feeling this dolphin joy, I decided that I had had enough, and wanted to head back to shore. My friend reassured me that he was OK now, and so I headed back on my own. After a few moments of swimming, I looked up to the shore and realized just how far out I was. Again, a moment of panic entered my inner space, and I thought, ‘How am I ever going to make it back there?’ As if on cue, I heard that now familiar sound of a dolphin whistle in my ears. I looked down into the water and just ahead, saw the dolphin that had led me earlier to the pod. I felt such deep gratitude and joy to see him, and felt my heart open wide. He was swimming towards me, face to face, and as he came close I saw his mouth open as he said something to me. This time, instead of hearing the sound with my ears, I felt the sound vibration resonate through my body. Almost instantly, I had a sense of renewed strength and stamina, and I felt I could easily make it back to shore. About thirty seconds later I realized that he had actually turned around and was now swimming right below me. It was as he was my own personal escort, as he stayed with me for several hundred meters. Once I felt really comfortable with my distance to the shore, I silently thanked him, and gave him an inner hug. He turned then and headed back. This was the first of many beautiful dolphin encounters, and many more were also shared by my friends.
After some time, I realized just how beautiful and touching the experience had been for me, not only in fulfilling a lifelong dream, but experiencing first hand the simple and humble presence of such an amazing being. To see and feel the compassion and care of an entirely different species was very inspiring. What I took back with me was the realization that this love and compassion is always enough, in every moment. The dolphins own nothing, they are whole and complete just in and of themselves; having no possessions or sense of ownership, they simply exist in an inner freedom and peace that very few humans can relate to. I was deeply touched and inspired by this experience to realize the inner freedom of having nothing but the presence that you are. It was as if the dolphins wanted to teach me that; in truth, there is really nothing to own, and no possessions to acquire. To own something you would need a container to hold it in, and what really matters, what is all encompassing, has no walls, no limits and no end. The presence that we are can never be held in one place as it is free-flowing like a dolphin, and rests in vast open space like the ocean. In this space of free-flowing openness there is an ease and a trust that makes it clear this moment is enough, just as it is.
For info on the next Hawaii Ocean Yoga retreat click here
* After returning home from my retreat I wanted to make sure I found a way to give back what I was grateful for; 15% of the Hawaii retreat proceeds have been donated to the World Wildlife Federation, as well as the World Society for the Protection of Animals.
© Written by Christine Wushke
“dolphin sparkles” photo by Irene Kerr