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  • jeniferfoster2

The circle of life

I was talking with some of my friends about diving. Oh, how I have missed it in the past week! There is something so magical, and calming and freeing about diving. It’s stepping into another planet. Really, you’re just a visitor in this other world.

Part of what I really love about diving is you can feel the connectivity to all of the other creatures. Somehow with water I can feel this more than I can in the air. Because of the water, I literally feel joined with all of the other creatures. Yesterday I talked about the energy that connects us to other beings; but, I can feel this so much more concretely in water. The water is the energy that binds us all together.

Another phenomenal aspect of diving is just being able to appreciate the very small aspects of life, and realize that they are just as vivid and alive as the largest aspects. There are creatures which are smaller than one’s fingernail, and they are colorful and magnificent. I heard one person describe them (nudibranchs) as the “drag queens of the sea.” I think this is a fantastic description.

*Picture is taken by Mickey Charteris. You can find his work at:

On the other hand, there are fish the size of school busses. I’ve never dove (dived) with whale sharks, but I have snorkeled with them. Their size and gentle nature are breathtaking. Literally. The first swim I took with a whale shark, I noticed that I was hyperventilating, because they are just so massive and awe-inspiring. But the energy that they emit is transformative. I remember when I was very young, sometimes when I was sick (and I don’t know what this is, sickness hallucination?) I would suddenly feel my smallness. I would feel the size of a dot on the head of a pin. I would feel the world circling around me, feeling that I could be swallowed up in any second. I don’t get that feeling too much anymore; but, swimming next to a whale shark I did. I felt their size and power and felt dwarfed in comparison.

But, what diving does, is it makes you aware of both. You see the circle of life in front of you. You see the importance of each creature. You see the astounding diversity of life: big and small, colors of the rainbow, shapes and personalities. You see the predators and prey and the food chain in motion. You see landscapes of mountains and valleys, and corals and sponges. I remember when I was doing my divemaster training. At night I would have the most vivid dreams. That is highly unusual for me. I usually do not have any connection to my dreams in the morning. But, I think diving awakened the creativity and imagination that had become dormant in the years of my career. If you asked a child to draw pictures of what lies below the ocean, my guess is you might actually get a fair representation. Because animals you could never imagine lay below the surface.

As I was telling my friends about diving today, I was reminded of one dive when I was fascinated by a tiny creature: examining its lines, dots and colors. All of a sudden, I looked up and spotted a massive barracuda staring at me. This type of thing happened several times to me, with eels, grouper, eagle rays and snappers. Instantly I would decide to look up and catch this massive creature inches from me, that I had been completely oblivious to.

But, this is sort of like life, right? We can so easily get caught in the minutiae that we forget the big picture. We focus on our jobs so intently that we forget about the people in our lives who are ultimately more important. We forget about nature, art, music and dance. We take for granted the other aspects of our life, and focus on one. I mentioned this happening with work, but it also happened to me in grief.

And, maybe it is important sometimes. It is necessary to focus on one aspect of our life. Maybe we have to. For instance when people get sick, it’s very difficult to focus on any other part of our life besides getting well. This becomes challenging when someone has a chronic illness. How is there room to focus on other things?

However, one thing that I’m starting to realize more and more is that it’s all tied together. I went to a training years ago that talked about how when people are stressed, it causes inflammation. They mentioned that inflammation, especially prolonged inflammation, can cause (or exacerbate) physical illnesses. Thus, as a counselor, I have often found that when my clients have a significant trauma history, they often have numerous (physical) medical issues as well. I’m also reading a book that was written by a psychiatrist who is also a nutritionist. She writes about how certain foods can cause swelling, and they can exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercise, as most of us know, help us physically, but also have significant impact on people’s ability to handle stressors and decrease symptoms of mental health disorders. Being outside can help us physically. Most people know that being outside helps with our vitamin D intake; however, studies have shown it can also bolster our immune system and increase our energy levels. The CDC reports that being social also has significant impact on both our physical and mental health. So, the pillars of wellness are each important and are tied together.

It's so easy to get stuck on one aspect of our lives. It can be all-consuming. And, our brains are literally incapable of multi-tasking. So, it makes sense that we easily get hyper-focused on one aspect of our lives. The key seems to be, however, trying to keep it all in balance. This is easier said than done, of course. Our culture (in the US) is almost set up to be consumed with career, and perhaps family. With twenty-four hours in a day, if one considers that we are supposed to sleep eight hours and work eight hours, that means that (roughly) two-thirds of our time is already allotted. If we add in time for commuting, and meals, and bathroom breaks, it means that we have very little time to devote to anything else.

So, how do we do it? Work less? Maybe. Maybe there are ways to consider multiple avenues at once. One benefit I felt from working as a dive instructor was that I got to work on my career, my environmental wellness, my mental health, intellectual health (learning something new) and my physical health all at once. For me, the challenge was that my social health, financial health and spiritual health all took a bit of a hit. Is it worth it? Maybe.

But, at the end of the day, something has to give. We cannot work 10-12 hours a day (which is something I have done in the past) and find the balance we need to truly be healthy. Perhaps we can for a bit. But, eventually, you’ll look up and be caught off guard that a barracuda is staring you dead in the face.

What have you done to find balance?

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