Tuesday, July 7, 2015

How a Shark Taught Me to Control My Thoughts

If you know me, you know I love Discover Channel’s annual SHARK WEEK programming. In honor of these magnificent creatures, I’m offering this excerpt from my book, “How to Choose Love When You Just Want to Slap Somebody” that details my own shark encounter and the lesson I learned from it. Enjoy…

Consider this Buddha quote: “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” You are what you think. If you think your day will be a disaster, a disaster it is. If you think your day will be a happy one, you’ll be right again. Industrialist Henry Ford said it this way, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t - you’re right.” According to philosopher Soren Kierkegarrd, “Our life always expresses the result of our dominate thoughts.”

So if you think you’re a failure, you will live that truth. If you think you’re a kind person, you’ll demonstrate kindness. Are we doomed by our thoughts? Not at all. Norman Vincent Peale said, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” Award winning singer songwriter Willie Nelson is quoted as saying, “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” Willie gets it. All these people understood the power of the mind to create reality. And they understood everyone has the power to change their reality by changing their thoughts.

I know, I know – you’ve heard about the power of changing your thoughts to change the experience of your life and have probably read books demonstrating to consciously create your life with your thoughts. And you believe some of it. I believe all of it. I’ve seen countless times how the energy of my thoughts not only crafted my life experience, but absolutely affected those around me.

Several years ago I was learning to scuba dive in the Bahamas. On the second day out with my instructor, I was still awestruck by the beauty at the bottom of the ocean. The coral, the spectacular array of sea creatures, and the vastness of the sea - it was all just incredible. And I could see it all because I was breathing under water! It was unbelievable. I remembered my television hero, Jacques Cousteau, and could hear his powerful voice in my head eloquently describing the breathtaking underwater scene that enveloped me in his beautiful French accent.

We were diving near a large coral reef when a brightly colored school of fish silently glided by followed by a trio of six to eight foot reef sharks. I watched with amazement and noted the group was only about ten feet away from me. What? The sharks were only ten feet away from ME! In a flash the theme from JAWS started playing in my head as did each brutal bloody scene from every single shark movie I've ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot. The tempo of the song increased and as I became completely terrified, one shark broke away from the group and began circling me. I could see the shark's dead eyes staring through me and I became even more horrified. Quint’s famous line in JAWS flooded back to me, “You know the thing about a shark, he's got... lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eye.” It’s true.

As the shark got closer and closer I was forced to drop down on my belly between two coral shelves where I was trapped. I was breathing hard and using up oxygen fast when I realized there was at least 50 feet of ocean straight up between me and the boat. The more scared I was, the more aggressive the shark got. I remembered hearing that sharks could sense fear and were drawn to any creature that gave off "victim" vibes. Even in full panic, a small voice inside me realized I have to calm down. I forced myself to breathe deep and slow. I began to repeat "I am safe, I am safe, I am safe" over and over in my mind. As I felt my body start to relax, the shark began to lose interest and as I completely relaxed into the calm, it turned and swam away. The only thing that changed in this scenario was my thought pattern. You think I believe our thoughts matter? You bet I do!