I bent over, lifted my left leg, and tried to quickly slide my foot into the thick black rubber fin with as much grace as I could muster. My right foot toed the small sheath of my flip flop, which teetered on a precarious patch of jagged black lava. I had an awkward gait, like that of a monk seal on land, ready at the slightest provocation to plop over onto my belly, grunting. Then I wiggled into the right fin with the same hurried action, the rubber pulling the hairs from my foot. I stood, relieved, and looked out at the ocean.
The distance to the water’s edge, only about three feet, seemed protracted by the challenge of the serrated rocks along the perimeter. I took lurching steps to avoid the seemingly inevitable trip-and-fall scenario associated with fins. Once I reached the water’s slippery rim, I crouched down, held on to a sharp corner of the lava shelf, and inelegantly plopped myself into the tide pool.
I landed in the salty water and was instantly transported. No longer the person fumbling his way along the water’s sharp edge, I was weightless now, surrounded by a graceful softness. My legs and feet were enhanced with long elegant fins and moved in natural rhythm with my new home. As a last remnant of my land-mammalian characteristics, I squirmed just a bit as I readjusted my mask for the perfect fit.
Unbound, I stretched my arms out in front of me, bobbing my head down into this new world. The gravity of my former world dissolved into color and flow and weightlessness.
In just six feet of water, I was transported into a different universe, an aquatic world that embraced me and gave me levity. I peered out over this new universe as though I were floating up in the heavens, god-like, looking down at the myriad of life in all its colorful glory.
I swam my way toward the outer edge of the tide pools, to the place where the ocean swells crashed upon the great barrier of rocks and softened the waves to a lulled flow. I loved it out here, at the edge, even if it stirred a bit of fear in me each time I went. Magical.
Joseph Campbell has said that he believed people aren’t looking for meaningful life as much as we are looking for the experience of being alive. I like Campbell for many reasons, but mostly for his refreshing attitude toward religion and spirituality. He coined the phrase “follow your bliss” which, upon hearing it two decades ago, instantly became my mantra.
And his wisdom reminds me of something important. When I connect to doing what I love, to following my bliss, I find an effortless flow. I find a graceful ease. I find that gravity seems less dominant in my life.
My swim reminds me to recommit to doing those things that allow me to feel free, light, and in awe—to take a walk in nature; to teach and write from my heart; to swim and play like a kid; and to do my yoga. I remember that I must connect deeply with those I love, serve those in need, and remember that life is what we make of it.
When I do this, when I follow my bliss, I know that I am in the right place, and that the world is an ocean of possibilities.