Tag: cave diving

The Paths We Tread

The Paths We Tread

During this long Threshold experience there has been much time to reflect on this juncture in life. For over two years there has been intense consideration but in reality the question Why am I here? has echoed for many years.

I have followed my heart, followed the guidance I feel, and it led me on a fascinating journey. It started while in high school working at a local state park in environmental education which progressed to attending college and majoring in Outdoor Recreation Administration which led to seven years working as a state park naturalist which led me to deeper discovery in life when I had an awakening that took me away from everything familiar at age twenty-five.

Because self-reflection was so useful for my own inner growth, I choose to attend graduate school majoring in Counseling which led me to work in the fields of addictions, children and adolescent therapy and family therapy. To be an effective therapist I kept going deeper which led me to massage and bodywork.

The deep healing I experienced as I went further into my depths was so profound I wanted to be able to offer that to others so that led me to massage school, Reiki master training, Polarity Therapy Training and all of that was so profound so I worked for ten years as a massage and bodywork therapist.

But the part of the path that was missing in my work was nature. I spent a lot of time in nature—hiking, cycling, paddling, diving—but my work was indoors and there wasn’t a connection with nature and healing in the work I offered people.

I always promised that if I ever had the financial support I would stop working indoors and dedicate my life to connecting people with nature. Then I inherited a large piece of land, sold it and was able to fulfill that promise.

I stopped ‘working’ for a living and started giving for living. I photographed beautiful places—both on land and underwater—met amazing creatures that allowed me entry into their realm and through these amazing experiences kept journals and wrote about the inner transformation that happened every time I submerged into underwater caves, made contact with humpback whales underwater, swam with dolphins pushing against me in their pod, witnessed lavender mountain sunrises, saw the birth of baby sea turtles, had manatees rest their heads on my shoulder…amazing experiences happened when I stepped out in faith to fulfill the promise of helping connect nature and humans.

During this time I spent a year documenting the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. I traveled from the mountains of North Carolina to the Gulf Coast each month and spent a week photographing and creating videos of seven beaches from Fort Morgan, Alabama to Ft. Pickens, Florida.

Several books were produced, mostly by my own financing, ranging from a child’s book on the Gulf Oil Spill, children’s books on sea turtles and manatees to short essays on profound interactions with ocean wildlife complete with photographs I took. One of my books—the most-sold one—was created by listening to the wisdom animals shared…Manatee Mindfulness and Other Wildlife Wisdom.

A lot has resulted from fulfilling that promise and now the time comes for another leap. Guidance has been to go deeper with Nature, to connect people with the wisdom teachings of wildlife. During one meditation I heard, You went out and connected with the animals and places, now you must teach what you learned to those willing to listen.

Not the most specific instructions but I did begin writing a course in self-study called, Deepening with Nature, which will  eventually become an e-book people can download and use for their own deepening experiences. The other piece will be workshops and retreats designed to help people connect deeper with Nature and each other.

During this time of pause to let go of the old and clear out space for the new, ample time for reflection has put some interesting experiences in my path.

One has been delving into the last few years of Freddie Mercury’s musical career and while I respect and generally adore Freddie Mercury and his music, it is the final years of his writing and singing that have touched me deeply. His love of opera motivated him to follow his passion to write and perform duets with opera diva Monserrat Caballe.

His advancing illness eventually kept him from performing yet he was determined to go into the studio and record tracks that his band mates in Queen could finish after his death. He knew he would never hear the final music yet the songs were coming through him and he wanted to give them to the world.

The album the band released four years after his death contains some of the songs he left behind with his piano and voice. Other tracks were recorded by the other members of Queen and then mixed. It is some of the most moving music I’ve ever heard, especially knowing how it was created and with passion not only from Freddie but his friends who added their instruments and voices…and love.

Can you imagine the loyalty for your path to keep going, to keep sharing under such hardship? He inspires me every day to listen deeply to that which wants to be birthed through me.

Another recent experience that has been helpful is a book I just finished today by a cave diving instructor of mine, Jill Heinerth. Her new book, Into the Planet, is about her life as a cave diver—and very much worth reading. (I couldn’t put it down).

As I read her stories, her passion and vision was so evident. I heard myself asking, What is my vision? What is my passion? I love to cave dive but there is no way I would ever explore and go through the hardships required to do that sort of work. And yet, I have done deep exploring…within myself.

Too often we fail to give ourselves credit for the intense, challenging, courageous work we do when we make the commitment to grow. The awakening that happened when I was 25 years old was the first major leap inward. It was my introduction to ‘cave diving’ within the cave that is me. And even though I am a certified open water diver/instructor and certified cave diver and side-mount cave diver, the most incredible experiences from my life have been the ones where I unearth treasures buried deep within myself.

Usually experiences in nature have prompted the inner leaps and treasure hunts. Each outer leap of challenge such as learning to scuba dive, learning to cave dive, required mastery of myself. I’m not claiming to be a master in those areas but rather saying they compelled me to learn self-mastery.

It’s not so exciting or adrenaline-pumping to read about someone’s personal, challenging, courageous inner journey through their life but those journeys are just as important as the challenging experiences extreme explorers have that take them to the edge. Anyone that makes the commitment to grow faces many experiences that take them to the edge of what they know and their ability to navigate the dark, uncharted inner realm.

The outer experiences of learning to open-water dive and learning to cave dive compelled me inward, called me deeper as did experiences with humpback whales, manatees, dolphins, sea lions, mountains, streams….my outer ‘lite’ explorations pushed me to depths of connection that forever altered my life and hopefully, by sharing them, the lives of those reading about them or viewing my photographs.

We can stand in awe of what people accomplish in the fulfillment of their life purpose and what they do in the realm of exploration and be inspired by it, but let us not forget our own amazing capacity to take the inner journey that opens us to uncharted landscapes, challenges, battlefields, and heights and depths the soul can reach when given the opportunity to shine through the experience of being human.

I bow to all those brave humans who dare to dive into the depths of themselves, to the very edge of what they know, and press onward through darkness to discover their inner light. You….we…are the ultimate explorers.

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The album that has simply blown me away….Made in Heaven, released by Queen in 1995. When you think of Freddie writing the songs and recording the tracks….and then his band mates finishing it after his death to honor him….I am in awe. And the music is fantastic!

Fear…The Thief of Life

Fear…The Thief of Life

I watched a YouTube video a guy created when he sailed across the North Sea solo during the winter. Crossing the North Sea Singlehanded is the title. It wasn’t across the entire North Sea…I think from Norway to the Shetland Islands, roughly 200 nautical miles…but still. Solo. Sixteen hour nights. Six meter waves….that’s like 18 foot waves. Snowing, sleeting, gale-force winds. I love the ocean but could barely watch it. I kept saying, what the heck was he thinking?

People have asked that same question about me….cave diving, traveling solo in England and Ireland, in Bonaire….leaving the ‘everyday grind’ to follow my heart’s calling. I understand what it feels like to have people question my sanity….just like I questioned the sanity of the guy sailing in insane conditions. Honestly, I was more afraid sitting on my sofa watching the North Sea video that I was during my adventures… except for my start in cave diving.

I think back to times when I had to choose between letting fear keep me stuck or taking the leap of faith into the vast Unknown. I believe the most powerful leaps in our lives always include an unknown aspect. We cannot know how a decision will truly affect us or the repercussions that will happen. It wouldn’t require anything of us if it was all the details were known. It wouldn’t produce growth or help us increase our strength and trust in ourselves. But I know this with all my heart: if we feel called to do something strongly and we gets signs–as in coincidences, synchronicities, etc–we are on the right track. I think the greatest tragedy is when we allow fear to keep us stuck and ignore those little breadcrumbs affirming the path that leads us to greater freedom and joy.

Cave diving….I was a diver already and wondered what could possibly be so great about being underwater in a cave. I was scared the first time I entered an underwater cave with my cave instructor friend. No doubt at all. My eyes were big, I could hardly breathe from getting caught in the high flow of water rushing out of the cave…I could share more ugly details…. but I persisted, even when I was scared. And I learned to trust my intuition completely while cave diving.

For instance, once my dive partner and I were entering a side passageway in Peacock Springs. We had tied a jump reel and everything was fine yet I began to feel really anxious. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and my breathing rate increased. I signaled to my partner that I needed to return to the main line. As soon as I got to it, I was completely okay. I couldn’t’ explain my anxiety but I listened and by doing so learned to trust myself.

Cave diving has taught me the most important lesson in my life: PAY ATTENTION.

Fear is a natural response to change. The way to differentiate between fear that is normal and fear that is paralyzing is to pay attention to how the body responds…at least that works for me.

I know that fear can keep us stuck, keep us from taking the leap into something wonderful. I know this because I have experienced it. But I have also made the leap, many times, and every time….when I really felt something strongly calling me…it has been amazing.

Sailing across the North Sea in winter is not on my to-do list but there are other adventures yet to come…I feel them calling. I’m ready to leap. What is calling you? Don’t let fear keep you from your dreams….don’t let it steal your life.

Enter the Light

Enter the Light

_tsl8194Can’t recall ever having as much fun diving as I did the past four days. I was thinking….so many dives….over 600 in the past 15 years….but these last ones have been off-the-scale fun. Why is that?

_tsl8205I’ve done cave and cavern dives many times, have been to beautiful ocean destinations…what’s different this time?

_tsl8199Perhaps it was having the opportunity to be with one other person, a fantastic guide, and experience the freedom to play in the water–taking time with light beams or formations of beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. Nobody rushed me or pushed me to move if I was engrossed with something that captured my attention.

Before we began our diving, I told *Daniel that my goal was to have fun and take photographs. I wasn’t interested in anything else. Play was my objective.

More than once while diving I noted how fun it was to be underwater, underground and have my camera kit with me. Not a passing thought but a real fire of playfulness within that ignited passion for the work I do.

_tsl8196The mornings were filled with clear water, diving into cenotes filled with magical formations and ‘working’ to capture their beauty through the art of photography. The afternoons were filled with processing images and realizing that I was indeed capturing the beauty I so deeply love and appreciate. It was a celebratory atmosphere!

_tsl8311There were no distractions. It was me and the sea whispering sweet sounds as I worked and celebrated the success of my endeavors. I’m an ardent perfectionist but even that part of my personality was deeply pleased with my efforts. Did hell just freeze over?

Connecting with the beauty of nature is why I get up in the morning. Through the arts of writing and photography I find the expressive pathway to share the magnificence of nature….of our water planet. The way I decide where to go is to simply listen with my heart. It always guides me true.

_tsl8212My heart always guides me to enter the light.

*Daniel Ortega Moran is based in Tulum, Mexico and is a wonderful person and dive guide. He’s a cave instructor as well…if you’re interested in learning more about diving underground.

Dos Ojos…The Eyes Have It

Dos Ojos…The Eyes Have It

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It’s four o’clock in the afternoon. We finished diving in Cenote Dos Ojos at 10 a.m. and I’m still in my bathing suit. The dives were fantastic and processing the photographs taken on the dives has been fun, too. Just finished working with the images and loading a bunch to Facebook and realized…oops….still have on board shorts and bathing suit.

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When I lose track of time and get consumed with something, it’s good. Really good. My mind likes to be challenged, it likes to have a job to do. So composing underwater photographs in cenotes this week has brought a lot of joy…mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. All the good stuff.

_tsl7918Daniel Ortega Moran, the guide I hired, has been very keen on timing and places. Yesterday we had Cenote Dream Gate to ourselves. It was far back in the jungle and pristine in its beauty. Oh, my goodness! As beautiful a place topside as it was underground underwater. The energies of the Mother were so powerful there.

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_tsl7864Today we arrived at Dos Ojos early. It’s a very well-known and popular place for snorkelers and open water divers. We had the place to ourselves on the first dive and only passed three other people on the way out. By the time we exited, there were so many divers we had to wait a while to access the steps. There were kids and people jumping off the platform….it was a zoo. But….because of his good timing, we had two incredible dives. Plus, Daniel chose that place today because it was the first day of sunshine and the light coming through the cenote opening created stunning visual effects beneath the surface.

_tsl7986One more day left….and I feel sad to leave but have had such an amazing experience reconnecting with the sacred energies here. It’s coming home to a greater dimension of life I haven’t experienced in many years. It’s reclaiming a part of myself I had lost.

_tsl8007This time I came equipped with more tools…more cave training, a wonderful camera system for underwater photography and a heart and mind more open and vulnerable, willing to leap with courage to whatever places I feel ‘called’ to visit, connect with, and share the stories from with anyone willing to listen.

_tsl7956A couple weeks ago I put the question out there…”Where?” The answer came strong and action to book the trip was immediate. Now I understand….this place called me to re-discover my passion and fire for my life’s work. And I am deeply grateful.

_tsl7865Dos Ojos…Two Eyes. I see and understand….with my own dos ojos.