Last week I had the fortunate experience of travelling to Fiji. One of the things I noticed was I had the same values and fears in Fiji that I had at home. I ate the same foods, practiced yoga and didn’t take a lot of risks. When the option came up to do a pool scuba dive, I took it only because my husband was doing it.
After collecting our tanks, masks and air regulators we sat on the green grass under a shady palm and our instructor Madi taught us the hand signals to use under water. We talked about equalising the air pressure in our heads and a little bit about sharks. Birds chirped around us, children played nearby, sunlight caught our faces.
The next step was putting on the gear and getting into the water. My heart started racing. ‘It’s only a pool.’ I reminded myself.
‘Put your mask on and breathe.’ instructed Madi. ‘Deflate your vest, sink to the bottom of the pool and let’s go.’
I sunk to my knees in the shallow end.
Hey I can see everyone’s legs.
We kicked to the deep end and I froze. What if I drown?
I sat back and watched the team ahead as bubbles rose above me.
‘Come on,’ signalled Madi.
I didn’t budge.
I edged forward.
I edged some more.
The deep end swallowed me.
‘It’s not so bad, is it?’ signalled Madi.
‘Can we go up now?’
‘That was awesome’ said my hubby. He signed up for the 12 meter ocean scuba dive for the next day.
‘Can I think about it?’ I asked.
‘No.’ said Madi. ‘I need to know right now.’
I felt the internal door of opportunity swinging.
‘Ok, I’ll come.’
‘Great. We’ll charge it to your room. See you in the morning.’
The next morning I worried if this was my last day. I made my friend promise to look after my family. I considered writing a last will. I breathed.
I squished into the wet suit and took my flippers, mask and a weight belt to help me sink to the bottom of the ocean. I was led to a van with five strangers. I put on my seatbelt. We drove to a remote spot on the island of Fiji and parked.
One man and a lonely boat was rocking on the edge of the sea. A bunch of school kids were playing volley ball and swimming nearby. The man told us to wade into the ocean and climb into the boat. I was fitted with a 20 kilo air tank, regulator and told to zip up. Don’t you even want to know my name? I wondered. I could hardly breathe.
We sped off the coast to a choppy part of the ocean and turned off the engine. The boat swayed.
I breathed into tight spaces.
I put on my flippers.
‘Sit on the edge of the boat like this,’ said Madi. ‘And fall backwards into the ocean.’
I gulped and tried to peer over the edge of the boat, but my air tank hauled me back and my flippers heaved me forward. I started to shake.
Madi rolled into the ocean like James Bond, followed by stranger one, two, three and four. My husband flipped over like he’d been looking forward to this all year.
Mission impossible sound track played in my ear.
I trembled. I sat on the edge and took my last breath.
The sea was salty. The waves chopped into my head.
‘Over here,’ yelled Madi. ‘Hold onto this rope.’
I felt like I weighed a hundred ton. I argued with the waves as they crashed into my mouth. I was stuck between a boat and a bunch of people that looked like seals hanging onto a rope that led into the ocean with a regulator jammed in my mouth.
I can do this.
‘Look at me,’ said Madi.
‘I don’t know if I can do this.’
Until yesterday, I had never laid eyes on this woman, and now my life was in her hands.
I followed her breath by breath. There was nothing but this moment. We were one. I equalised. I breathed. I followed. I kicked. I equalised. I breathed. Madi was my soul mate.
We reached the bottom of the ocean.
Madi took hold of my vest and held my hand. Breathe in, breathe out. Equalise. She led me into the sea. I let go my inhibitions.
A Parrot fish!
Blue Starfish. I never knew they wrapped around coral like that?
Equalise. Breathe. Kick.
I expected coral to be more colourful? I’m going to have to amend my painting when I get home.
Equalise. Breathe. Kick. ‘Yes I’m okay.’ I signalled to Madi.
Anemone. Nemo. Oh look, a Nemo. I’m in a cartoon! He’s looking right at me. Look Andrew, a shark. He swam away. Look, another Nemo. A unicorn fish.
My ears screamed.
‘My ear is hurting.’ I signalled.
‘I am.’ I held my nose and blew. My eardrum squealed.
Kick. Breathe. Equalise.
Hey I’m scuba diving. Hehe. This is so cool. Feels so weird. All these bubbles. The air tastes different; I wonder what it’s made from? Breathe. Bubbles. Kick. Swim. Bubbles are bubbly. Shark. Fish. Star fish. Coral. Black. Yellow. Red. Purple. White.
The sea thinned as I followed Madi to the surface.
We popped out of the ocean like a dolphin.
Warm rain tapped on our heads.
‘I’m judging by all these smiles that you liked it?’ Madi asked.
The boat roared as we sped back to our bure. I was freed from my air tank and breathing ocean air.
At the dive centre I expected her to say ‘Namaste,’ or at least ask for my number, but she didn’t. Just ‘thanks very much and make sure you put your gear back.’
Air never tasted so good. I will never forget her, or the sea.
I wanted to share this story with you because it was yoga that helped me achieve this goal. Because of yoga, I knew I was strong enough to hold the tank, swim in the ocean, climb into a boat from the sea. I knew I would be able to swing my leg, use the rail, twist and turn. I used the focus we use to stay in poses to be in the moment and not let my fears take hold. I followed my breath to stay calm. Of course, I had a competent teacher holding my hand, but it was still up to me to take that hand.
All of my fears were emotional. Yoga became the exponential experience that helped me overcome fears and expand my life.
I could (easily) spend the rest of my life avoiding new things. Or I can use my yoga practice to take me into places that are currently unknown.
This experience has inspired me to ask; what are your fears? Do you hold yourself back? Let’s explore ways to help us overcome fears to lead a more fulfilling life.
Soon we will be celebrating 2012, do you have goals? Would you like to share them with me? I can be your non judgemental support person to help you reach those goals. Share them with me. Together we can reach new heights (or depths.)
I am a yoga teacher, author and artist.
Blogs by Monica
Growing Emotional Intelligence