The only thing keeping me from being swept away with the current was my white waterlogged fingertips pinching the barnacle covered rocks. I tried to keep myself as still as possible, being mindful of my breathing to keep it slow and steady, for I did not want to scare off the predators lurking beyond my vision. I sat there with the current pushing my mask tighter and tighter against my face looking into the endless sea ahead.
A figure appears out of the deep blue, then another, then another. A few more follow behind them and as they approach us, they turn their bodies so they can get a good look at us. We see their heads grow sideways. My heart nearly leaps out of my chest to go swim with them, for this is exactly what I asked the ocean to gift me today: Hammerheads.
Everything seems to go still for a moment. The current. My breath. The divers around me. All of us completely fixated on the apex creatures before us. Their beauty. Their strength. Their natural ease. Their undeniable power. Their stunning grace. They swim in and out of our vision for what seems like an entire lifetime. We stay as still as we can, knowing that this is not our place to do anything but bow in reverence to something greater than us.
I bring my hand to my regulator and pretend to blow the sharks a bubbly kiss. Everything inside of me is jumping for joy. Presence and gratitude fill my every cell. I am reminded, this is why I dive.
Ever since becoming a Divemaster, I’ve come to realize that the reasons why I dive have changed. I don’t dive because I want to check off things on my bucket list. I don’t dive because I want to get photo evidence of the underwater world, or gloat that I’ve done this many dives and have had this many encounters with such and such animals. Although I think those things are important and have their place. I became a Divemaster because it's the only thing that makes sense to me - learn everything you possibly can about diving so that you can stay underwater for as long and as safely as possible.
I dive because for me, it is a return to home. From the moment my feet land on a boat, to putting my gear together without a second thought, to back rolling off the side of the boat and taking my first underwater breath… I am home. Diving is a return to soul. I dive because if I don’t get my gills wet, my soul-body begins to shrivel and I am simply no use on land. I dive because I am brought to my knees in awe of the beauty that this planet holds. From the tiniest of nudibranchs to the largest of manta rays, I am constantly humbled by the diversity, interconnectedness, and intricacy of the oceans and world beyond. I dive because it reminds me that I am so small, so insignificant, yet so strong and so powerful. Diving has become nothing else than a meditation for me. A time of intentional solitude to be disconnected from the modern world, submerged into the most vast and infinite space on this planet, and brought straight back to the only thing we ever truly have in life - this moment. Diving soaks the parts of me that have been hardened by being on land, breathes life back into any part of me that has been dried out, and calls up my soul from the depths. From there, I return back to my life on land radiating, vibrating at the frequency of all life, my mind, body, heart, and soul brought back into proper alignment. For I have returned to the wild, where I belong.
“We have learned that we are like amphibians: We can live on land, but not forever, not without trips to the water and to home.”
~Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes from Women Who Run With the Wolves
“It would be far better simply to admit our spiritual poverty… When spirit becomes heavy, it turns to water… Therefore the way of the soul… leads to water.”
~Dr. C. G. Jung (excerpt from Women Who Run With the Wolves)
As we start moving towards our safety stop, signaling the dive is almost over, I look to my dive buddy to be sure all is good. My dive buddy points frantically back to me, and I turn my head expecting to see something in the distance. My body naturally jerks at the surprise to see that I am looking head on with a 6 foot black-tip swimming right for me at eye level. I take a breath and send an humble energetic “hello” to the powerful creature. At what feels like the very last possible second, it turns and swims right by me. I turn my head to follow it, us locking eyes for a fraction of a moment. My body relaxes as I feel the message from this interaction. I hear nothing else from the shark’s wise and wild eyes except “welcome home.”
Even though I have no photo evidence of my own to “prove” any of this, anytime I close my eyes I can return to these moments. No photos or videos could ever replace the lived experience of being humbled by the fact that these are apex predators crafted perfectly by evolution, who have been on this planet much longer than humans. And yet we get the blessing of witnessing these powerful creatures, that keep our world as we know it in balance, in their natural environment. These are moments that I experienced in pure presence and awareness. These are moments the soul does not easily forget. These are moments that I get called to write about, for my creative energy overflows when I am this close to the heartbeat of Life.
And with that, I return to the surface feeling revived and refreshed. For I have touched my soul home once more. The ocean and her inhabitants opening their arms for my homecoming, filling my cup, and then sending me back on my way. As I write this, fueled by pure creative flow and channeled from this space of deep remembering, my heart rests easy knowing that home is always there, just a dive away.