Dolphins: the ultimate heart opener

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.

- W.B. Yeats, quoted at the beginning of 
Voices in the Ocean– a Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins

Fresh off the red eye, from spring break in Hawaii. Where we swam with dolphins. I can’t stop thinking about it. It was one of those sublime experiences that blurs the line between dream and reality. So it seems appropriate that I’ve been reliving it right before I drift off to sleep. I swim with dolphins into my dreams.

I'm still processing it. If I didn't have these amazing photos, courtesy of the wonderful Lisa Denning of Ocean Eyes Photography, you might think I was making this up.

I could not wait to get in the water. The first thing that jumped out at me (besides, I AM SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS IN THE OPEN OCEAN) was that you could hear them. Chattering, clicking, whistling…and sometimes it sure sounded liked they were laughing. They were close, but I wanted to be closer. I asked Lisa if I could swim towards them and she said yes. There was a mama and baby. Don’t swim away from me, I anxiously thought. Please don’t swim away from me. While we weren’t supposed to extend our arms in any way (considered dolphin harassment - you keep them at your side, behind your back or hands over your heart), I wanted to reach out to them. Lisa had told us to try to open our hearts when we wanted to reach out. Like in camel pose, I thought.

One of our Cowgirls vs. Cancer alumnae, Angelique, introduced me to Lisa. She had her own dolphin experience a few years prior, during her treatment:

If you ask me the one gift, the one thing that came out of swimming with the is that my fear is gone, my fear which had haunted me - even though I was capable of putting it away or to sleep for weeks at a time, it was always in the background. Will I come out of this? Will I survive this one more surgery? Will the cancer come back? It is as if the fear went swimming off to be lost in the depths of the ocean, never to return.

I felt like a mermaid! 
I feel like part of the pod, swimming just above them. I try to emulate their graceful movements without a lot of success, but nonetheless feel their rhythm. It reminds me of cantering on a horse, this moving together. I am so close that I could kiss them. They know I am here. They are allowing me in, they are briefly letting me be part of the pod. They’ve already forgotten about me – but I will never let go of those moments.

I had eye contact! What were they thinking about me, these dolphins who I was able to look in the eye? After being in the pod, I was swimming in circles with one. I would have laughed out loud if I hadn’t had a snorkel in my mouth. I know I made some sort of happy noise, and he or she chattered back at me. Around and around we went – this dolphin was playing with me. This is not a dream, I am not dreaming about dolphins. I am playing with a dolphin. I am swimming in the deep blue ocean, surrounded by dolphins. I channeled camel pose – keep your heart open, I told myself. Do ustrasana in the ocean, so the dolphins understand how you are feeling. Reach out to them, with your heart. I called upon every single heart opening asana I’ve ever done to serve me in that underwater moment.

Afterwards, I felt both elated and calm. And as if the dolphins weren’t enough to take in, while we all quietly pondered our encounter after getting out of the water the last time, a whale suddenly breached. We saw him/her twice more. My heart felt open and full. Dolphins - the ultimate heart openers.

My daughter, soaking up dolphin love with me

The wind kicked up waves and we had a wild speedboat ride back, the under 12 crowd screaming with glee the entire way. It occurred to me how many of my unforgettable moments have called up the Sanskrit blessing lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu - may all beings everywhere be happy and free. When we share this blessing with others - particularly with other species - it reinforces how interconnected we truly all are. Namaste. 

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