Just keep breathing, just keep breathing. In, one two three. Out, one two three. Relax, relax , relaaaaax.. And all of a sudden your mind becomes empty and you have entered into the NOW. Now this is what I’m talking about! That amazing moment of no-mind and complete presence is truly felt on such rare occasions. Those crazy, insane, beautiful, incredible occasions! My mind could do with a bit more of this practice, that’s for sure. All I needed to do was chuck on a BC, a mask and a pair of fins and I was half way there. But adding Raja Ampat to the mix is when the magic happens; the most essential ingredient for mind blowing meditation.
Raja Ampat was to be my first ever diving location. Yep, I really didn’t know how lucky I was. To give you an idea of this magical place, this is what the Raja Ampat dive book has to say about it; ‘Endowed with abundant habitats, nourishing currents, and a fortuitous path through geological time, this triumvirate of world-class dive regions firmly establishes West Papua’s reefs as the most bio-diverse on earth.’ Or as our friend Simon from Sea Sanctuaries simply describes it as “the bull’s-eye of the bull’s-eye.”
So that sounds pretty awesome!! We were pretty much smack bang in the middle of the coral triangle spanning from Singapore across to the Great Barrier Reef and up into Japan. Alrighty! So I did some snorkelling back in Intermediate when I was 12. Hopefully that qualifies you for a Raja Ampat diver. Ok, so I’ve never done any diving in my life and I was having my first lesson under the most bio-diverse waters in the entire world. “It means that the Great Barrier Reef doesn’t even compare to the reefs out here mate!” Brady told me. I felt very naïve yet enthusiastic to explore this world existing below the surface.
Before I knew it I was breathing underwater!! I took in the air from my tank like an ultra mega suction vacuum machine on its last breath! “This is insane! You can’t do this!” screamed my mind. I struggled to take it all in. “How is this even possible?!” Thinking too much about it doesn’t really help. I was trying so hard to concentrate on my breathing I didn’t even notice the amount of fish swimming around me. And then somewhere between my stressed out breathes and ridiculous bicycle kicks underwater, it suddenly hit me. Like a good whack to the face. Enlightenment! My breathing calmed down and I became fully present. The magic had begun.
It was like someone had just simply switched the ‘off’ button to my mind. No longer a clumsy half drowning human, I became an elegant aquatic animal, a part of the ocean. A fish. This was one of those magical moments of no-mind, of complete presence. If there was an option of adding extra eyeballs to the whole experience I would definitely be down for that too.
Everywhere I looked there was life in all its glory and magnificence. And everything else within me seemed to vanish in that moment; all the stresses, the worries, the anxieties. All that chitter chatter of the mind was gone and I was left in a blissful bubble of beauty. I yelled out “Wow!” through my regulator. The bubbles rose to the surface as I breathed out in overwhelming joy. And then my mask immediately filled up with water due to too much laughter. Frequent attacks of smiling and feelings of utter astonishment are all part of the welcome package into the watery depths below.
It is so insanely beautiful down there, no words can describe it. No video or photo can do it justice. Nothing but your own experience can give you these rewarding gifts of what the ocean has to offer. Seeing the display of infinite colours, vast expanses of bright coral reef, fish of all shapes and sizes, sharks, turtles; things I had never seen in my life or even knew existed. It is definitely a mind blowing experience. “I love diving!!” is all I could think when I was down there.
It was on my second dive when Josje pointed at something excitedly. I couldn’t see it at first. It looked like a large chunk of rocky coral. She gestured with her hands and spelled it out. Sign Language really comes in handy under water. I looked closer, and my eyes widened. Turns out it was a wobbegong shark! A pretty big one too, maybe 2 and half metres in length, with its tail neatly curled around itself in a spiral. Blending into its environment so well, so still, so graceful, so camouflaged; its amazing. We swam further along the coral wall and then spotted another one! This wobbegong sat just like a king or queen in their throne. Only the throne was a large bright blue piece of coral that looked like a flower. Underwater rose buds as big as an armchair.
Staring in amazement at this majestic wobbegong shark, I had no idea of the significance or rarity of seeing such creatures. The innocence of not knowing how special something is until someone else points it out to you. And that someone else was Steve; an underwater photographer from England. Steve is part of the Sea Sanctuaries crew doing conservation work out in the bulls-eye area, protecting it from overfishing. “You’ll never guess what I saw today dudes!” he said excitedly, after his morning dive. “A wobbegong shark! I’ve only waited 21 years to see one of those!”
Whoa. 21 years! And I saw two on my second dive! The funny thing is I didn’t even know what a wobbegong shark was at the time. I had done no study of marine life, no diving in my life, and had no idea of what to expect. I’ve seen Finding Nemo though. But better yet, I just happened to be onboard Delos, in the company of 4 amazing friends, sailing around Raja Ampat, with dive gear onboard. Steve laughed, “people like you really make me jealous!”
To wobbegong, or not to wobbegong! Old mate Shakespeare knew what was up. To be or not to be, that is most definitely the question. Learning to embrace all these moments, whatever they might be, to be mindful, to be in the NOW. To BE! Well it’s a pretty difficult practice, regardless of diving or not. But I’m so thankful to experience the small doses of it. These small reminders that put you fully in the present, switching off the chitter chatter of the mind and bringing you into the NOW.
I’m going to call it WobBEgong Meditation. Whether you realize you are looking into the eyes of a wobbegong shark or not, it’s all there right in front of you, waiting to be appreciated. It might just be a bit camouflaged at first. Indeed it is a magical place below the surface of the ocean, just like it is a magical place below the surface of the mind. Life’s beauty is all around us if we look closely enough, within and without. Thank you diving!! Thank you Wobbegong!
PS: I got my Raja Ampat diving qualification in the form of a shell; beats any piece of paper. Cheers Brady!