Tag: Eco-Spirituality

Mandala of the Heart

Mandala of the Heart

We were heading out to visit the dolphins and I found a quiet place at the front of the boat. I went within myself and opened my mind to dolphins.

After a while I began getting a visual image of two pink hearts that were intertwined. Then the two hearts expanded into an entire mandala of pink hearts. It was beautiful and it felt as if the dolphins gave me this image. I felt my heart open as I concentrated on it.

After the meditation ended I rejoined the group and we continued on and on….no dolphins for a very long time. And when we found them, they were in very murky, green water.

After easing into the water I noticed my mask was leaking profusely…to the point where it was filling completely with water even though I cleared it. I couldn’t see my camera readouts so I exited the water.

The camera went to a safe place, the mask got fixed and I entered the water again with the only intention of opening to an encounter with dolphins…nothing more. No photographs, no swimming hard to keep up. I simply invited the dolphins to join me and asked if I could join them and kept the image of the pink heart mandala in my mind.

I swam away from the main group of humans and found myself suddenly surrounded by mother spotted dolphins and their babies. One mom and calf…another mom and calf…another mom and calf. I had three mothers and their babies surrounding me, more beneath me and when I glanced back still more were coming. There was a minimum of 16 spotted dolphins surrounding me and possibly as many as 20.

As I gently swam side-by-side with the dolphins I was overcome with emotion….I could scarcely believe I was welcomed into the pod of dolphins who glided beside me as if I was one them. I wept profusely as I gently swam within arm’s reach of the largest female and her calf. And all the while the mandala of pink hearts remained in my mind.

I became one of the pod today as I surrendered to the gentle flow of love permeating everything around me….and within me. I felt welcomed back into my family, a lineage of wisdom that is indescribable.

It was as if I was welcomed home. Not in a geographical sense but rather a home within my heart and mind.

Lately I have had the feeling of coming full circle in my life, as if I’ve completed a very long and arduous journey to reach a place of completion that will give rise to a new beginning. Many years ago dolphins called me into this life and now they have helped me find a new beginning point.

Call me crazy, it doesn’t matter. I am home within myself and all is well. Oh, yes……all is well.

Later I got out my camera and captured one photo from the day...and it was enough.
Later I got out my camera and captured one photo from the day…and it was enough.

 

Lessons from a Sting Ray

Lessons from a Sting Ray

_TSL5291Taking underwater photographs in bad viz is not something I’d normally attempt. Murky water and strobes yield backscatter. But when there’s opportunity to play with stingrays….

_TSL5301The challenge brought by unclear water is to make the subject appear clear when everything around it is filled with particles of sand and grass and anything else stirred into the soupy mix. In the creative process of underwater photography, you have to be willing to use your skills or learn new ones to achieve the desired results.

_TSL5322Life is like that. We want it to be obstacle-free. And yet, it’s the obstacles that hone our skills and help us develop into well-balanced individuals. If it was easy we’d never feel our strength. A diamond doesn’t become a precious gem without immense pressure. It’s the pressure that turns a lump of carbon into a valuable stone.

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Dolphin Dream Time

Dolphin Dream Time

_TSL5012When I attempt to write about yesterday’s dolphin encounter…it’s challenging. I remember the sleek bottlenose and spotted dolphins swimming among our group. I recall the two male bottlenose doing their best to mate with the spotted females, getting tail-slapped and bitten by said females and then turning to each other for ‘comfort’ after their rebuke.

_TSL5031It’s difficult not to remember the protruding penises but I am grateful for the restraint they showed by keeping the majority of their fourteen inch ‘private parts’ hidden. Perhaps I am still blushing.

As I was floating among the amorous males, I remembered stories of male dolphins attempting to mate with human females and so I reminded them of my middle-age status. Stories of aggression toward human males came to mind. They can ram, rake their teeth or bite or heaven forbid, mount a human in foreplay. Yes…these stories filtered through my mind.

_TSL5164But mostly I was suspended in a sea of playful thoughts and appreciation for the profound beauty of both species of cetacean that interacted with us. Wild, unfed animals that chose us to learn from and play among.

After motoring along the bank for over an hour off the coast of Bimini, I spotted their gray dorsal fins heading toward the boat. Everyone quickly got ready and slipped into the water in snorkeling gear. It was beautiful to see the sleek, bullet-like bodies glide through clear water.

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Exhalation bubbles as the dolphin surfaces to breathe.

Laughter erupted several times from a deep, inner palace of light. The dolphins reminded me of this treasure within that can be easily forgotten.

Dive master playing with dolphins
Dive master Jamie playing with dolphins

A friend reminded me a while ago that we actually have to choose to be happy. I thought about his words a lot yesterday and the truth of that idea resonated deeply. I can choose to be happy….at any time, any where.

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Spotted dolphin shaman…healing my headache.

The day began with an intense headache, the kind that generally lasts for days. After a female spotted dolphin buzzed me (literally) twice, I realized the headache had vanished. When she approached, she stopped and her sonar clicks were so strong I felt them in my body but especially inside my head. It felt as if my brain responded to her intense clicks…like I ‘heard’ them inside my head. In fact, almost 24 hours later I can still feel the vibration within my skull.

_TSL5239I knew she was scanning me and have no idea what she ‘saw’ but the encounter was fascinating. I had taken ibuprofen before leaving the dock but generally it only takes the edge of pain away. It was a nice surprise to realize I was pain-free.

My great love is marine mammals. Manatees connect with me in a very soulful  place. Humpback whales, when they choose an up-close encounter with me, touch a deep place of peace within my heart and so my heart expands. The dolphins opened my mind, expanded it and it feels as though they activated an intensely deep-mind connection with them that will continue to unfold.

_TSL5161When I am in the watery realm of marine mammals, open to connection and communion, there is mutual learning. I enter into the experience excited to learn, eager to expand my understanding of other sentient beings. They seem inquisitive and therefore learn from me through our connection.

_TSL5242Oneness and understanding is cultivated in the fluid reality. I am not in the water to ‘get the shot’ but rather to commune with other species and gain understanding. If a good photograph results from the encounter…well, that’s just icing on the proverbial cake.

 

Outside My Comfort Zone

Outside My Comfort Zone

IMG_4739“So where’s first class?” The diva walked on to the 40 seat prop plane and stared in disbelief.

IMG_4735The low ceiling, narrow aisle and small seats gave little room to turn around much less change your mind about flying without the perks of first class…or even economy class.

We all become accustomed to certain comforts whether it’s slumming it in economy-coach or flying with warm hand towels, ample leg room and ‘complimentary’ champagne. Anything that pushes us outside our comfort zone creates an opportunity for growth.

IMG_4759When I walked off the water taxi to get a luggage cart, I walked under a gallows for the old ones, the great ones…marlin, tigers, hammerheads. Hunted for sport, murdered, strung up so the killer could have a photographic remembrance of his or her thirst for blood. Hemingway and his cronies stayed here and were part of the pre-conservation, pre-awareness genre of hunters.

IMG_4755It wasn’t my choice to stay at The Big Game Club. (The name even freaks me out). Our group trip was changed to this fishing resort due to problems with the other hotel where we were supposed to stay. So no hard feelings….truly.

I thought I was coming to Bimini to write about playful encounters with spotted dolphins and the spiritual awareness that comes from hanging with them, but sometimes I am led to see things I don’t want to see. Sometimes I write about the things I never intended to write about.

IMG_4760Laws have changed now and killing sharks is illegal and prohibited in the Bahamas. The marina here is now a Shark Free Marina (SFMI) meaning they prohibit sharks from being harvested at their facility. As well, they encourage fishermen to exercise catch-and-release fishing techniques which is an awesome way to protect the great fish and still offer people an opportunity to enjoy fishing. It also provides valuable data for research organizations.

Once upon a time this place was all about harvesting the giant marlin, tigers and hammerheads to prove human stamina and manliness. When I walked under the gallows, I felt the spirits of all the magnificent fish that hung there. An overwhelming sadness wrapped around me and I found myself outside my comfort zone.

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Reflections

Reflections

_TSL4760Thunderheads were building in the distance as I walked down to the beach with my tripod and camera gear. After awakening far too early, I decided to leave the house and photograph the sunrise. With good cloud potential, expectations for some interesting shots motivated me. I had to go anyway for sea turtle track patrol so why not just go early?

_TSL4744Conditions were near perfect. There was enough wave action to produce the desired result of a silky Gulf, with time exposures, and the clouds were big and lovely. The unexpected surprise was tidal pools that created reflections.

_TSL4791As I stood waiting for the camera to tick the seconds on the longer exposures…. 8….13….15…the idea of reflections bounced around in my head. Are we reflections of a greater wisdom? We act as mirrors for others in our lives. We can celebrate the amazing truth of that….and know we are not alone.

_TSL4879-2I turned around on the beach today and found the reflection behind me was mind-blowing. It reminded me of the wonderful experiences I’ve had, that are behind me, and the people I shared them with…beautiful.

_TSL4865While thoughts did come to mind as I photographed the sunrise, it was mostly a time of communing with beauty that made me laugh out loud and utter words to the sea and the sun…grateful….thank you….love.

_TSL4906The next time you see a reflection…whether it’s in a tidal pool, on the surface of a large body of water or in a mirror where you look into your own eyes…think of those lovely souls who have spent time with you and reflected back to you your own beauty.