One of my favorite books I go to for inspiration is A Gift From the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. It’s filled with nuggets of wisdom about relationships, marriage, and womanhood. The following is an absolute gem from it:
“the sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach-waiting for a gift from the sea”.
One of the hardest lessons for me to learn has been about patience, presence, and allowing. A few weeks ago, I had the experience of a lifetime. I gave myself the incredible gift of fulfilling a lifelong dream: I attended a retreat that incorporated swimming with dolphins in their natural habitat. I walked away from that magnificent adventure having learned many lessons, but one of the most profound was about presence… miraculous things happen when I allow myself to be empty, open, and allow whatever will be.
The first day swimming with spotted dolphins, I was shocked that here, in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by the creatures I’ve always longed to spend time with, I faced myself and how I typically live my life. Here I was, surrounded by sentient dolphins, and I found myself not fully able to be present to them. Rather, I was caught up in the challenge I was faced with trying to properly free dive down at their level…a new skill that I hadn’t practiced since learning it two months prior. I was disheartened as I realized this about myself as we processed our first encounters as a group later that evening.
Thankfully, the sea has always had a soothing and healing quality for me. As each day passed, I was able to shed my typical worldly way of being in my head and find the ability to experience a very different way of living. Two experiences really stand out in my memory that I was only able to encounter because of this new way of relating with my surroundings.
When out in the open sea, the staff of Wild Quest had the expectation that we stay together as a human pod. On our third day out, I thought I was with my pod…I saw Atmo, the photographer/owner, ahead of me. Little did I realize; I had separated from my pod. Within a short time, a lone dolphin appeared on my right side- parallel to me- just a foot away. He too had separated from his pod. We swam side by side, parallel to one another for a period that was timeless. Observers on the boat said it lasted for anywhere from 10-30 minutes. Whatever it was, it was a moment I was never more present. Time just stopped and I was able to soak in the profoundness, mystery, and beauty of life.
Our final day, we drove for quite a long time on the open waters before we spotted the largest pod of dolphins than we had seen all week; there was over 30. The water was placid that day and the dolphin’s mood matched the sea. They swam with such calm and peace. Some were mating and others blessed us with a few leaps out of the water ahead of the bow. I recall the owner, Amlas, urging us to match their energy as we slipped quietly into the turquoise water. The dolphins that day must have sensed it was our last day…they wanted to be nearby, but they did maintain more distance than previous days. For the first time in four days, I swam slowly with my long fins, arms clasped behind my back, my heart wide open, and absolutely no expectations of what I was going to experience. After swimming with a slow feminine energy for quite some time as we had been encouraged to, I looked ahead of me, and there 20-30 feet away was a huge pod of about 20 dolphins. I thought for a moment and it occurred to me they had to see me and knew I was approaching. I decided to maintain the course I had been swimming all along. They easily could have swum away if they wanted to be left alone. Within a few minutes, there I was, in the middle of this pod, literally with dolphins all around me within inches on all sides. Some were jostling and rough housing with one another. I just trusted they knew I was there and wouldn’t include me in their play. Within minutes, the physical experience was over, but the memory will always be held close to my heart. I’m convinced I was able to experience that magical moment because of my ability to be empty of expectations and void of greed, but rather filled with pure presence and openness. It was an incredible gift from the sea.
Days after I returned home from my retreat, I read a blog post from Wild Quest in which the author spoke about one of their overall goals for the retreat participants: they hope for each person to experience RARE- an acronym that stands for Relax, Allow, Receive, Enjoy. I was in awe as I read it, because even though I had no idea that was their goal in my attendance, it is exactly what I experienced in the sea during those magical moments described earlier.
In the weeks following the retreat, I often find myself applying this knowing to the couples I’m working with. While it is very true, that to have a healthy, satisfying, and intimate relationship, it requires intentionality and effort, at other times it requires this capacity for RAREness. Just the other day, I had the privilege of working with a couple and teaching them about this concept. They engaged in a pattern I see all too often: a husband or wife is communicating with their spouse in a heartfelt way, and the spouse, in anticipation, takes on a reflexive bracing type of stance, disconnects from eye contact, looks off into the distance, and gets caught in their head anticipating what they think is about to transpire, completely missing what is right in front of them- an undefended partner who is apologetic, seeking amends, healing, and reconnection. Miracles happen when they allow me to slice the moment thin, reconnect them through eye gazing, put their assumptions temporarily on a shelf, and take in what is actually being presented to them in that moment in time…truly being present to their partner right now as they strive to be the partner they aspire to be.
Similarly, couples that are experiencing a deep gulf between them due to betrayal or other woundedness can benefit from recalling this concept. In such cases, healing is often gradual. Often times, one of the partners becomes impatient with the pace of recovery and tries to push healing along at a speed their spouse isn’t ready for. But in so doing, they can inadvertently push the other away. Rather, there needs to be space for the hurt spouse to heal, and for both partners to feel into the small moments of connection…feeling right into where they are right now. By slowing down and slicing the small connecting moments thin, you will encourage ongoing connecting opportunities. Over time they will build. Healing can never be forced.
So, if you are in a marriage in which you are striving to strengthen your relationship and be a conscious couple, the next time you find yourself and your partner in a meaningful dialogue, I encourage you to recall the concept of RARE. RELAX into the moment right now that you find yourself in. Try to quiet your reflexive defense mechanisms that you resort to so easily- whether it is being defensive or provocative. ALLOW-stretch yourself to put past pain aside and hear what is actually being said right now in the moment. Pay attention to the actions of this very moment; it is the most powerful and telling data to inform you. Surrender to the moment. RECEIVE- allow yourself to fully take in and absorb the ways in which your partner really is showing up, right now. ENJOY- you may even find yourself moved to tears with gratitude. Sometimes, when we come at relationships which too much push and pull energy, we push our partner away and prevent the magical connection from happening.
Photo taken by Atmo Kubesa of WildQuest