August 13, 2021

How Scuba Diving with Great White Sharks helped me stop Playing Small.

Scuba diving with sharks

“One of the top five best things I have ever done is go scuba diving in the Maldives, on this boat Scuba Spa,” Anna, the ocean-loving Australian, tells me as we sit eating raw, vegan tiramisu in a trendy Bali café.

On a humid Wednesday in June 2017, Anna wore a loose sundress, had sun-bleached, curly, long hair, and was being her chatty, yoga friend of a friend self while holidaying in Bali and plotting her next adventure.

“Seriously, Polly, check out this boat,” Anna said, showing me photos on her phone.

“Oh my goodness! This looks mind-blowing,” I replied.

“This is the hot tub on the top deck, and this is the white sand beach dinner banquet they set up on a deserted island,” she gushed.

The photos looked like something out of Condé Nast Traveller magazine.

I would never be able to do something like this. It is way too nice. This looks like a high-flying, executive type trip, and I am used to living on 10 dollars a day in Indian ashrams. 

“Wow! Anna, this looks incredible,” I said, filing it away in the maybe-when-I-win-the-lottery-I’ll-do-this category.

Later, with those images still in my mind, I asked myself, “If money were no object, where would I like to go the most, right now?”

The answer came from my heart and made me happy.

Diving in the Maldives!

Hands down, this scuba trip made it to the top of my list. The possibility that I could do something like that suddenly entered my reality.

Okay, well, let’s see if it could be in range, I thought. I had been working a lot. I checked out their website, and then I checked my PayPal balance. It was an exact match, which meant that I was going to have to go all in.

Do it, Polly.

Without second-guessing, I took the plunge and committed myself to the most expensive thing I had ever done in my life.

I texted Anna: I just booked myself onto that boat!

She immediately replied with: It will be the best money you have ever spent! Good choice! You won’t regret it! I’m jealous!

Okay, awesome. I was totally doing this!

“You will be amazed at what you attract when you start believing in what you deserve.” ~ Unknown

The aqua blue water and the luxury dive boat felt like waking up in a dream, and my heart swelled with absolute gratitude to be there.

“The sharks you will be encountering in the Maldives are all friendly,” the dive master briefed us in the pre-dive meeting. “Sharks have gotten a bad reputation, when in fact, they are not interested in humans.”

Pictures of blacktip, whitetip, and angel sharks rotated on the screen, as we were assured, “‘Jaws’ was an overly sensationalized movie. The shark reality out here is not the image the media portrays. Consider the sharks we will be encountering like big fish,” he said.

Oh, thank God. That’s a relief.

I had been apprehensive while seeing the smaller whitetip and blacktip sharks during our previous dives, but I was not quite sure if I should be nervous or not, considering that my total, all-time dive count was 20.

My dive guide, Iboo, had been attracting sharks on purpose by tapping a plastic bottle that was full of stones with a metal pointer stick, so I surmised they couldn’t be too dangerous.

The boat captain alerted us, “We are nearing the dive site. Everyone get your gear on.”

A surge of adrenaline and excitement pumped through my veins as I wriggled into my full-length neoprene wetsuit.

I slung the six kilogram (13 pound) weight belt around my waist, put on the cute shark-finned, topped neoprene dive cap, and fastened the dive watch computer to my right wrist.

My dive mask was ready to go around my neck as I put on the dive fins over neoprene booties.

The helpful boat crew had already set up my Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) and connected it to my oxygen tank. When we reached the dive location, they helped me wriggle into the vest and even buckled me up.

Testing the oxygen by pressing in the regulator and hearing the pffff sounded as a strong burst emitted from the black plastic mouthpiece. I put it in my mouth and inhaled.

I checked the oxygen levels and made sure it was around 200 bar, which meant a full tank.

Waddling in dive fins, wearing a heavy oxygen tank, putting the mask on and the regulator in my mouth, I felt awkward and unstable. I held the mouthpiece of the regulator in place with my right hand and the weight belt with my left, and I stepped off the edge of the boat.

The air was released out of the inflated BCD vest as I held a black tube up over my head with my left hand and pressed a red button. This allowed me to descend underwater, feet first.

Iboo, my dive guide, pretended like he was superman flying as the current moved us along at a swift pace.

A human-sized turtle and some smaller sharks swam by as we descended. Iboo signaled me to stop on a vertical ledge on the reef.

Out of nowhere, two six metre (18 foot) great white sharks swam toward us.

Holy sh*t.

Those were massive sharks that looked like “Jaws.” Was that why we had the shark talk that morning? Was that normal?

Hearted by

Faced with absolute insignificance and total powerlessness, our lives were at the sharks’ discretion.

I sat frozen, while pumping with adrenaline, and was in pure awe.

If this is the end of my life, I am okay with it, I thought. What a way to go!

I surrendered to whatever the sharks decided because, well, there really wasn’t another choice. We waited motionless and barely breathed.

After a few minutes, the sharks turned and swam away into the mystery of the deep. Iboo signaled to keep moving.

Woah, okay that was incredible! How could it get even better than this?

I was peaking, all senses on high alert and firing.

Now, that was a real adventure. Whatever unfolded from here would be icing on the cake.

A few minutes later, Iboo signaled to stop again on the vertical reef ledge. The two sharks were back! They turned and swam toward us.

I gripped onto Iboo’s leg as we sat motionless on the reef ledge, face-to-face again with not one but two great white sharks.

The experience erased my brain and left me with a message: “See the truth and get out of the small you. It is now or never. Time is short. Complete your mission and do what you came here for. It’s time to drop everything that doesn’t matter. All of it! Be the full expansion of who you really are and stop faffing.”

Wow. Okay I get it. Message delivered.

The powerful sharks turned and swam away.

Faced with death, the precious precariousness of life felt amplified to the extreme.

Reaching the oxygen tank limit, Iboo signaled with thumbs up to head to the surface. We both popped up, smiling and speechless.

Still in semi-shock and not fully breathing, I climbed aboard the dive boat, stunned at what had just occurred.

Iboo said, “No one is going to believe us, Polly. This just doesn’t happen. What we saw today was truly magical. I have logged 8,000 dives in over 12 years as a divemaster in the Maldives. I have never once seen great white sharks or been so scared, ever.”

I was glad that I did not know this at the time and was grateful for the ignorance that’s bliss beginner’s mindset.

Having no expectations and nothing to compare it with, every dive for me is mind-blowing. However, dive number 21 will forever be etched in my being.

Here are my top 10 shark sighting takeaways that helped me stop playing small and start living big:

>> Listen to the signs when they present themselves. When someone says, “This is on my all time top five things I have ever done in my life list,” take notes.

>> Be open to the possibility that we can do anything by asking, “How might this be possible?”

>> Do the thing when it presents itself.

>> Consider that the opportunities that pop in out of nowhere and light us up are usually a sign it is a good idea. (pop up?)

>> Go all in. This shows our commitment. We have more skin in the game and tend to value our experience more.

>> Align with the biggest version of yourself; it is important to change our limiting beliefs. Instead of saying, “I am a person that only stays in inexpensive ashrams,” we can instead say, “I invest in high-ticket opportunities when it feels right.”

>> Invest in yourselves. We are worthy of it, whether it is an outward adventure or an inward one. If travel is not an option—which for many of us right now it’s not—we can invest in ourselves through expanding our skills and talents online.

>> Listen to the voice that whispers, “Let’s do this.” It is the voice of our intuition and higher self. This voice helps us to grow and gives us courage to say yes to the experiences and opportunities that present themselves for our expansion. The voice that comes up with 20 reasons why we “can’t” is our rational ego self that wants us to keep playing small.

>> Ask yourself, “Is that really true?” when presented with an opportunity and thinking that it is out of our range. Stop limiting yourselves. How can we make this happen? How might this be in ourselves?

>> Practice the mantra “How does it get even better than this?” It helps us move in the direction of infinite possibility. We practice gratitude for what we have,  and we become open to the opportunity of things getting even better!

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