To experience light,
we must be willing to face darkness.
On Sunday, September 27th the moon reflected a slice heaven with it’s ‘super blood moon’ eclipse. In anticipation of this rare event, I was keen on sharing in the moon’s glory with an adventure of my own.
To better remember the event that inspired this article, I recorded this note to self:
Then I summarized and shared some reflections below.
I headed to the coast on a gut feeling and decided to follow this gut throughout the remainder of the trip. What it suggested was an evening surf in the blood moon’s light; sounds good to me! So on the recommendation of a man who appeared to be the 70-year-old version of myself, I headed to Oswald West State Park to discover a coveted surf spot named Smuggler’s Cove. Emerging from the forest trail I saw the beach and realized why older me send myself here. The serene scene energized me into a skipping sprint towards the ocean proclaiming to the moon, “IT’S BEAUTIFUUUUL!”.
This is was blood moon commemoration I was looking for.
Then there was a change of tides.
As if everything was just too good, I started thinking about the last time I was scared. Like truly afraid for my life.
With the support of the moon, I felt empowered to face a fear I’ve had my entire life: being exposed in deep water. The mysterious depths of the ocean makes me feel vulnerable and helpless. I’d rather be dropped naked in a football stadium than in the middle of the ocean.
So I swam, head on towards fear.
I swam until the swell turned into endless rolling billows and the crashing waves were a faint background noise. Just me and my fear of the unpredictable open water. Unclenching my board, I fell back and surrendered myself to my ocean. Then kicked away my surfboard—my safety net.
Feeling pain in my jaw, I noticed how this fear was being embodied. Fists clenched, neck stiff, face tight—as if my entire body was contracting and hiding into itself. This was disappointing, that my body wasn’t being as brave as my mind and heart.
Floating on my back I began fighting the tension fear had created throughout my body. Knowing I have control of my body, I knew I had the capacity to release this fear. Breath by breath, limb by limb, unraveling from the inside and surrendering every bit of myself to the ocean.
Physical sensations are intrinsic to thoughts and feelings. Reactions to people, situations, thoughts, fears—they’re all sensations that trigger our body to form a certain reaction. Seeing this fluidity and interconnection of mind and body was liberating. With awareness and control of physical reactions, one can be more in control of their outcome.
What followed was peace.
Thoughts of what was lurking below were replaced by awe of moonlit birds soaring above. The daunting billowing waves were replaced by a pleasant comforting sway.
Then fear took over.
As if this letting go of fear were a magnet to the very fear itself, an excruciating sound below me emerged and thumped the back of my head. Time froze for an extended split second as I froze to assess if what was happening was actually reality. Yep, it was. So in an uncontrolled flailing panic, I thrashed my feet and punched the water. Scrambling to my surfboard I began racing back to shore.
Amidst the terror, I remember loving the feeling of paddling effortlessly faster than I ever have—adreneline baby!
In returning to the safety of the beach and fellow surfers, I had the gut feeling to turn and identify the very thing I fearfully set out to conquer. As I looked out and saw nothing but waves, the choice was mine to decide how this
traumatic thrilling memory was going to affect my feelings toward open water. So until I heard that sound again and identify the curious creature who bonked my head, the event of ‘almost being eaten by a shark’, turned into a ‘friendly dolphin that kissed my head’.
And so I surfed on…
When fear takes over, it often feels like we’ve left our body and are experiencing life from a distance. There are times we might not have a choice but to freeze in panic or lash out in defense. In such case, healing comes from reconnecting with those places in our body where the fear is stored.
Though my fear of deep open water is not completely gone, it’s less severe. Digging up and releasing long-stored fears takes regular confrontation. Though a near to death experience followed by immediate redemption would be ideal. It’s a recurring commitment of confronting, desensitizing, and letting go. By letting this process fit into our understanding of how the world works, we can learn and grow from it.
The context in this video along with Alan Watts’s narrative on the illusion of fear is spot on.