Category Archives: Fear of Death

Adventures at Discovery Kingdom

My sister has wanted to work with marine animals since she was just a little tyke. I remember her crying in the bathtub when she heard that one of the killer whales at Sea World had died in an accident. My sister married young and eventually became a title manager for a real estate company. When the mortgage crisis got the best of that job she was laid off. She took it as a gift and decided to go back to school and pursue her dream.

Before we knew it, she was working as an explorer guide at Discovery Kingdom (formerly Marine World) in Northern California. Not even two years later, she’s a full-time aquarist and is loved by everyone she works with. She recently took me and my family on a tour of the park and got us a back stage pass that included some personal time with Merlin the dolphin.

I have never swam with a dolphin before. I thought maybe I’d get to touch him a little and feed him fish. But when his trainer told me to swim out into the pool I was ecstatic! I got to ride on his belly and do a fancy little trick called a foot push where he pushes one of my feet and sends me flying forward. He was smart and gentle and just an amazing creature- he even knew cobra pose. I couldn’t believe that for some people this is “work.”

The best part of my day, however, was seeing my sister in her element- listening to stories of her swimming with the sharks and feeding the alligators. I couldn’t have been more proud.

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Filed under Challenge, change, Empowerment, Entreprenuer, Fear of Death, Mystical, Mysticism, Personal Growth, Spirituality, Story, Storytelling, Travel, Yoga

The Brooklyn Bridge


Every detail of the Brooklyn Bridge was designed by John A. Roebling, but when he died unexpectedly in 1869, the reigns of this magnificent project were handed over to his son Washington who was only 32 years old. Washington carried out his father’s vision with absolute integrity, following every aspect of the design with unadulterated perfection. Except for one very important detail.

Below the towers of the bridge are the caissons (ˈkā-ˌsän, -s) or “feet” of the bridge. They are huge structures that are sunk to the river bed and then dug into bedrock. The men working below the water in the caissons experienced caissons disease, or what we now know as “the bends.” Conditions were harsh and several men died because of this. The caisson on the Brooklyn side was successfully laid in bedrock but to complete the same project on the Manhattan side would have meant years of additional construction and the projected loss of a hundred men.

Washington was then faced with the greatest decision of his intellectual and, I would imagine, spiritual life- continue to dig the caisson on the Manhattan side until it reaches bedrock, or allow it rest in the unconsolidated soil above. In the end, Washington decided to let it rest. And so he build the Brooklyn Bridge upon a foundation half grounded in bedrock and half grounded in sand.

“What does it mean if foundations vary in their solidity? Can something as shifting as sand, or fading memories, or third hand stories, or remembered writings still support something of this magnitude?
. . .apparently, yes.”
~Rachel Livingston Ahalt, Architect


~ Inspiration drawn from Ken Burns’ documentary Brooklyn Bridge

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Swim…

This is not my story, but I will tell it as best as I can…

~

He spent the day at the reservoir with his two young daughters, swimming back and forth from the beach to the big rock that sprung up from the water far from the shore. His eldest daughter was a strong swimmer and loved making the challenging swim with her father. The younger daughter was a bit more timid and stayed behind on these adventures.

Near the end of the day the youngest daughter finally decided she wanted to join in and told her father that she wanted to swim to the big rock with him. The waters were calm as they approached the big rock and the young daughter was filled with excitement at her accomplishment. “OK, let’s go back now,” she said to her father. But her father, having made this voyage several times that day, realized that he was extremely tired. “No,” he said, “I need to rest for a while.”

As they rested on the big rock, the weather suddenly turned. The sky became grey and the water churned up choppy waves. Knowing that he was tired, but also knowing that he wanted to get his daughter to safety, the father took a deep breath, put his daughter on his back and started swimming towards the shore.

After a while he started becoming exhausted. “If I don’t panic and I float on my back, I won’t drown,” he thought to himself. But then immediately he realized that he had something most precious on his back. The exhaustion continued to settle in and he knew that if he didn’t do something, he was going to drown them both. In that instant of realization, he grabbed his daughter and threw her off his back. “SWIM,” he told her.

She started swimming, all the while fighting the choppy water. “Float on your back if you need to!” he yelled to her. “No, I’m OK,” she said and she kept swimming as her father fell more and more behind. Then, all of a sudden, he was under water. The water beneath the surface was calm, quiet and he could feel his body sinking. “Am I dreaming?” he thought to himself. His body sank further.

Who knows how long he was under water. It might have been a minute, or only a few seconds. But as he sank, something happened. He heard a voice- maybe the voice was in his head, or maybe it was from somewhere else. “You’re not dreaming,” the voice said. Those words sent a burst of adrenaline throughout his body. His muscles came back to life and he clawed his body upward. When his head finally rose above the surface he could see his daughter swimming ahead of him. He rolled on his back and swam like that for a while so he could breathe.

Eventually they both made it to the shore, exhausted and relieved…

* * *

I keep thinking about that story. Keep thinking about the moment when he threw his daughter off his back. He knew he would drown them both if he tried to hold her up. But how, on the other hand, could he let her go? How could he release this precious gift that was literally holding him down? “SWIM,” he said.

I have learned so much from that word. It reminds me of the sanskrit word svaha meaning “let it go.” It is so easy to hang on to things that are precious to us. We love them and we want to hold them forever. But there are also times when, even in the space of deepest love, we have to release them so that we both don’t drown…

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Your Worst Day Is Someone’s Best Day

When I ten years old my mom was diagnosed with A.L.S., or Lou Gehrigh’s Disease. In five years I watched her go from a vibrant, healthy, thirty-five-year-old to someone who needed help doing just about everything, even breathing. Within a few years of being diagnosed she was bound to a wheelchair or bed and had little to no ability to move her muscles. Her nurses (not just the professional ones but her friends and family as well) had to do all the things for her that she couldn’t. Like brushing her teeth and hair, putting on her clothes, feeding her, and scratching her nose when she had an itch because she wasn’t able to lift her own arm.

Experiencing this at such a young age made it pretty difficult to complain about life. Even when I’m feeling really down or stressed out I remember that when I woke up this morning I stretched my legs and walked without any help. And even if I’m serious conflict with someone or have been truly hurt, I know that once we resolve things I’ll be able to throw my arms around them and squeeze them tightly. I know, no matter what my circumstances, that even my worst day is someone’s best day.

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Turbulence Just Means You’re Alive

in-flightEvery time I fly I try not to take it for granted. I intentionally choose a window seat so I can gaze outside while the plane takes off. Take-off is my favorite part. I love the rumble of the tires moving along the runway and the sudden peace you feel when the plane lifts off the ground and you’re in flight.

Here we are in this huge aircraft full of people and metal and luggage, soaring gracefully over the earth at 30,000 feet. It’s quite phenomenal, but if you’ve ever flown frequently you might have noticed how easy it is to take for granted. If you are one of those people, here are three lessons to keep in mind for your next flight:

1. Stop to smell the view

Don’t take for granted the little (and big) things in life- like how gorgeous the Rocky Mountains look from the view of the plane, or how quickly we are able to visit loved ones. Try to imagine a world without flight and you will see very quickly just how fortunate we are.

2. Dreams are never too big

I’m sure people in 1903 had dreamed about flying but it wasn’t until the Wright Brothers decided to take action that the dream of flight became a reality. Others around them must have thought they were crazy. How could such a thing be possible?

Don’t let people put down your ideas and dreams. If the great thinkers of the world had allowed others to convince them that they were crazy I wouldn’t be sitting on an airplane right now. Not only wouldn’t we have flight, we wouldn’t have cars or light bulbs. Only you can tell yourself if your ideas are worthwhile. And chances are, they probably are. So why not go for it? Our world may become a better place if you do.

3. Turbulence just means you’re alive

Second to take-off, my favorite part of flying is turbulence. Strange, right? While everyone else is clutching their armrests, I’m usually staring peacefully out the window. A smooth flight just seems so surreal to me. How can this ginormous vessel flying through the sky not encounter a few bumps- even a few big bumps? And what’s the worst thing that can happen? We crash? Die? Even though “statistically speaking” I’m four times more likely to be killed in an airplane than in a car, that’s only based on the assumption that one flies as much as they drive, which is hardly the case. I put myself in the face of danger over and over again every time I get behind the wheel, but I hardly think about that when I hop in the car to get groceries. So why worry now? Everyone dies, but in the meantime, I’m flying.

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