A Deep Dive with Dolphins
The first time I dropped gracefully into the gentle blue-green Bahamian waters from WildQuest’s beautiful catamaran named DolphinQuest, surprising warmth greeted and enveloped me like a childhood blanket. With the help of my snorkel, mask and fins, I glided along visible calmness with wonder and curiosity. The first sounds beneath the surface I heard were rhythmic and continuous. Rather fast paced at first, I realized these noises were my own. The inhale, followed by an exhale, repeated over and over while sunlight beams permeated from brightness and illuminated the scenery below. It was as if I’d entered a jar of clarity.
A bottlenose dolphin appeared out of nowhere just to my right. He was as curious about me as I was about him. Being larger than expected, I was surprised to feel joyfully unafraid. His expressive eyes met mine and exuded streams of unconditional love. He looked not only at me, but through me, and his mouth seemed to form an affectionate smile. My heart expanded almost out of my chest. While he swam with grace and beauty, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace in his presence, combined with complete acceptance, as if he had beamed me with an energetic elixir that penetrated through to the deepest part of my soul.
Tears pooled in my masked eyes and I thought for a moment of how oddly beautiful it was to cry unexpectedly in open water. The dolphin was fully present with me and I was with him. There was no concern of the past, no worry about the future, no existence of anything other than being simply right here, right now, in a dance of timeless grace, freedom, and unlimited love.
I listened to squeaks and more unusual buzzing clicks before three more dolphins joined us. I swam with my hands clasped behind my back, using my fins to propel me with ease alongside them, and I quickly became one of them. Part of a pod engaged in a synchronized swimming session under the surface of real life. I wanted my overwhelming feeling of euphoria to last forever.
The following day and each one thereafter brought additional, yet different flavors of awe inspiring dolphin encounters and interactions. But even with variations, there were critical common threads that remained throughout.
I knew at the close of my first week at WildQuest during the summer of 2010 that I would return. At first I believed I needed to go back in order to feel the power and magic that in my assumption at the time, existed only there. You see, underwater with dolphins and back at the retreat center in the company of open, loving hearts, I was able to accept several important things I had trouble accepting in everyday life. Things like: I am loved and lovable; I belong; I am connected to and one with all; I am free to be me: being me is good enough; I don’t have to prove or earn my value; I allow myself to be seen; I can trust; I am safe; present moment awareness is important; live from a place of love, instead of out of a place of fear.
Since 2010, I have been back seven of the past nine years. And I will continue to return every year I can. Every time I go, all of these beliefs echo loudly and are therefore reinforced. However, I have since reframed my initial belief that it can’t be otherwise attained. I believe the dolphins have taught me that these same qualities exist not outside of myself, but within my own be-ing-ness to cultivate and practice.
I believe these lessons dolphins teach are meant to be applied to everyday life. That the unconditional love and acceptance I feel from them is not based on proximity. I believe their love for us exists in our hearts, because the dolphins reflect the love that we are – back to us – to recognize. This love is not something new they give us, but rather something they bring out in us to be more consciously aware and accepting of. What if, in our highest selves, we are love? Just as they are. What if that’s their reminder for us? What if self-love and self-care are integral to our health and happiness and they want us to realize that?
Of course the magic that comes from a week spent at WildQuest does not come solely from the dolphins. Life at the retreat center is a bridge into real life for me too. Catching a sunrise, yoga, meditation, healthy foods, bodywork sessions, journal writing, having a cleansing cry, engaging in heartfelt and truthful conversations, gratitude spoken under the light of a full moon, maybe even dancing or singing like no one is watching. All of these remind me of activities that truly feed my soul. And I consciously remember to include some into everyday life. I know I am worth it.
So, what feeds your soul the most? How will you incorporate some aspects of self care into regular busy life? What is one honoring thing you can put on your calendar to do for yourself this week? When I apply lessons learned like this, I picture dolphins jumping out of the water. My heart expands.
Michele is a writer, award winning author, and speaker based in Northern California, where she lives with her husband, two dogs, and the wild birds that visit her backyard feeders.
A former elementary school teacher, principal, and district-level administrator for eighteen years, Michele now spends time following her passions: writing, meditation, exercise, time in nature, swimming with wild dolphins in the Bahamas, and traveling on unique adventures all over the world with her husband, Gordon.
Michele enjoys connecting with others and engaging in deep discussions about the importance of listening to our own intuition, being brave and vulnerable, and the freedom found in authenticity and truth.