As the dive boat was bobbing over increasingly choppy seas, and my dive buddy’s eyes were a watery red from seasickness, I was reminded of a wonderful teaching I sometimes share in my Yoga
classes about waves:
See, there are all kinds of waves. There are the big monstrous waves that crash heavily along the shoreline (these are the kind my boyfriend likes best for riding!). There are the gentle waves that crest ever so slightly, and there are waves that are almost non-existent. Those are the kind that you can float in the salt water with your big toes sticking out of the water (I call this the dry toe game — who can last the longest?)
But regardless of its size and its strength, whether the wave allows you to ride it on a longboard or float easily on your back, the wave never thinks of itself as anything but part of the ocean.
Yet, we as humans are far from that, aren’t we? We constantly look at reasons to be separate and different from everything around us. I’m petite, he’s big. I’m brunette, she’s blonde. I like her car. I would never act like him. Good for you, bad for you. Right? You can think of a million examples.
Boy, I really recognized the differences in the world as I took my first giant step to SCUBA dive for the
first time in open waters a few weekends ago! How magical it felt to sink down 60 feet below the surface (shout out to Steve Wood, my SCUBA instructor!). It was like we were entering another world as we entered another atmosphere.
A sea turtle swam past our group, and thousands of brightly colored fish crowded the strangely shaped corals and sponges. Small electric blue fish intersected with fish that sported scales that reminded me of multi-colored iridescent tiles of purples and silver.
Yoga – or, more precisely, pranayama – helped me immensely with SCUBA diving. I was able to take long, slow, steady breaths, and as I result I used about half the air in my tank compared to the other students in my group. This means once I dive with a more relaxed buddy, we’ll be able to stay down longer than most! I was down way too short of a time, or so it felt!
We dove off the coast of Palm Beach, with the Breakers in the distance, but it wasn’t the first time I was deep in that section of the ocean. Years ago, as a journalist, I tagged along on a research vessel with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute as they studied corals in the depths of the sea. In their pressurized submersible, I sunk to 1,000 feet below the surface. The scientists were exploring uncharted sections of the ocean floor, and mostly it was a desert that far down.
Looking out my little porthole, I saw random small fish swimming by but not much else until we came upon some relief of a coral bank. Then we saw some sharks, beautiful starfish and a few other creatures enjoying the microscopic animals and plants that floated over the coral bank with the currant. It was a special experience.
So what makes these underwater experiences seem so amazing compared to every day life at sea level? I think it’s because we give added value to things that are novel. If we dove down 60 feet below the sea and there was a strip mall and highways, we would be bored. Hey, remember Snorks? That show didn’t get much traction for this exact reason – those little creatures with a snorkel in their head were so much like us that we weren’t impressed.
And yet, that’s what we seek in our lives – people who are like us, things that are like the things that we have. This is the very base of how many of us feel comfortable in our daily routines. Perhaps some of it is sub-conscious, but there’s no denying that if you have a big pile of dreadlocks on your head, you will feel more comfortable with similar Rastas. If you are wearing a suit at a Chamber of Commerce meeting, you will be more comfortable than if you showed up in cut-off jeans.
If you think about it, it’s just as silly as the big set waves being uncomfortable with the little mushy waves that precede them. Waves know they’re all part of the same ocean.
So why shouldn’t we feel the same way? Why should be not be as impressed with the amazing beauty that is happening everyday above water as I was with life below water? We often get wrapped with the minutiae of life – or we get so confused by newsworthiness – that we focus on the problems. We focus on the differences that we neglect the similarities. It’s time to change that, one set of waves at a time!