By V. Vernon Woolf, Ph.D.
It was one of those perfect days, when the sky and the water met in mixtures of blue and white and everything was alive. My three companions and I anchored our boat on the Maui side of Molokini, a small, horse shoe shaped island that toped an underwater crater in the Hawaiian chain. I was the first diver ready and I plunged over the side into the crystal clear wonderful world of tropical waters. As the bubbles cleared I saw three sharks ranging from 4 to 6 feet long. This is a rare sight in these peaceful waters, so I immediately swam after them. My companions splashy entrance sent the sharks on their way and undaunted, we began to swim leisurely across the bay.
Molokini, because of its natural beauty, has been set aside as a national park and the fish that swim there are protected in the basin of the old volcano. They wear every imaginable color and sport every imaginable shape. Needle fish are long silver tubules almost invisible against the white sand and the bright coral sun. Red Snappers and Yellow Snappers abound in little schools flitting in and out of hidden caves nestled in the coral. We glided through schools of Neon Tetras, Angel Fish, and Puffers who greeted us like little curious children. The underwater world is a completely different world from the bustling city. Here, with the sunlight rays dazzling us in ripples of color, I was wrapped in Nature's womb, safe and filled with awe. Peace and tranquillity prevailed.
On the outer edge of the crater the bottom drops away. Peering down through the clear water, you can see into the deep, dark, blue of the ocean abyss. It raised my caution flags. After experiencing three small sharks, I wondered what other creatures might be lurking in the darkness below. Suddenly Gary, one of my underwater companions, pointed both hands toward the deepest darkest part of the bottomless black. As I peered into the darkness, it took a few moments before I recognized an immense shape was moving toward us out of the depths.
Quickly calculating how long it would take us to swim to the land or to the boat, I realized there was no escape. This creature of the wild was big, very big and we were way too far from any safe retreat.
Black on top, the emerging shape showed a white underbelly and my fears were soon dissolved as it took on the shape of a large manta. It glided gracefully through the water, up toward us and over the ridge. As it began to circle the crater, my three companions swam after it, trying to get close enough to hitch a ride on its large wing-like fins. Realizing the manta was swimming too fast for us to catch, I chose a different approach. I decided to "become" the manta.
Closing my eyes and centering myself into a state of being at peace, and there, I relaxed, imaging myself as a manta. A thought flashed through my mind that, in some other world, I was a manta. Just for the fun of it, I took on that manta's state of being. In order to do this I have learned to first tune into my own Full Potential Self, the "I" that is the real me in hyperspacial reality, and align myself. Like the blink of an eye, I was aligned, sensed it was OK, relaxed and slipped into the state of being a manta. I began to move my arms imagining I was gliding through the water. I had only moved my arms up and down two or three times when a wave of water washed over me. I opened my eyes to see what could be causing such a wave at a depth of 30 feet under the water. Right there, in front of me, not two feet away, was a mouth about three feet wide!
It was the manta! It startled me. My first thought was, "What does a manta eat?" Its mouth was large enough to swallow me whole. Then a voice, somewhere inside me said, "Are you all right?" It was clear as a bell. There was a pause and then the voice said, "Are you a manta?" Startled, I suddenly realized the manta was communicating with me.
"I am all right", I said in my thoughts, although the scientist in me was amazed I could speak in clear English to a manta that hung suspended in the water right in front of me and, clearly, it could understand me just as well. "I am not a manta", I continued, "but I wanted to experience your world".
It giggled! It actually giggled. It seemed genuinely pleased. Without any further communication we were suddenly flying through the water, down and over the ridge right into the deepest, darkest part of the ocean. It took me right into the heart of the thing I had feared the most only a few moments before—the unknown darkness of the abyss.
An all-consuming peace pervaded throughout my entire state of being. I was so immersed in the experience it was as though I had become embedded in oneness with life itself. I never knew such peace could exist. There was no fear, even in the darkest corners or depths of the ocean. I experienced a feeling of total harmony, one I never knew was possible. The manta was sharing with me more than just its physical world. It was sharing its state of well being.
Understanding enveloped everything. It was as though I had become everything at once within my own being or everything within my being had become one with the world. I swam, not only in the depths of the ocean, but in the depths of all-knowing, seeing through the eyes of the manta and understanding all that it saw. I was linked to its mind and immersed within its universal field of information, and reveled in being beyond the limits of time without losing my sense of time. To travel was effortless for there were no confines to distance or physical shape. I was present everywhere without losing my presence in the now. We traveled as if on waves of thought. I was totally alert to everything, yet confined by nothing.
After a while, it became a little monotonous just swimming in the bleak darkness, although I could clearly see the algae and other little sea creatures in the water, and I asked, "Can we get a little color into this?"
The next thing I knew, we were flying over corral reefs as beautiful as anything I had ever seen — vivid colors, swarming fish of every imaginable shape and form, and bright sunlight streaming over everything. There was a sound, made of everything in motion, the combination of a thousand orchestras, playing in harmony with a million birds, and countless other life forms. A sound, more profound and beautifully engulfing than I had ever experienced. Everything, the water, the fish, the coral and the sand, was in harmonic motion. But it was deeper. It was as though the very molecules were dancing together. No matter where I focused, the picture became clearer, my realizations deeper and the music more ecstatic. I was so overcome with the ecstasy of this dance, I reveled even more in it, savored it and was smitten by my love for this dance of life I was experiencing.
This amazing realization continued for some time until I was becoming used to this panorama of ever changing beauty until, quite unexpectedly, we were flying among the stars. I could see galaxies, nova, all forms of planetary systems as though we could swim through time and space uninhibited from any restraint.
"How can you, a manta", I asked, "who are confined to the water in the ocean, swim among the stars?"
The manta scoffed as though to say, "Don't you know anything?" I began to realize that, with all my education and learning, with all my experience, my understanding of life was far more confined than that of the manta. I opened myself completely to more fully take in the experience.
Time stood still for me as we winged our way through a universe continually emerging into time and space and flowing back into a field of complexity that was so amazing, so beautiful, so alive and so pervasive that the realizations never left me. Life is a fantastic tapestry of multiple dimensions, so magnificent it defies description. We are all part of an indescribable dance - the dance of life.
During my entire journey with the manta, my scuba companions had watched my encounter with the manta as we hung suspended in the water facing each other. Amazed at the connection between me and the manta, Gary swam back, across the bay, climbed aboard the boat, dug his underwater camera out of his gear bag and swam back again. As he approached us, he was adjusting his camera when the camera made several loud clicks.
A wrenching sensation went through my stomach. Torn from my reverie, I realized I was back in the water again and I opened my eyes. I saw the manta turning its gaze back toward Gary. I followed its gaze as it went from Gary to each of the others. One diver (Tina, Gary's wife) was positioned at the end of one of its wings. Marlene, my (now past) wife, at the end of the other wing, me in the front, and Gary, swimming up behind making noises the manta had never experienced. It realized it was surrounded. I could sense its feelings of apprehension about these other "strange" humans and their clicking noises.
"I must go now," was all it said as it dove over the ridge and down into the depths again.
The manta left me with the vivid realization that the most vital part of the dance of life is that everything is connected and, through Presence, we can experience it all.