Paramahansa Yogananda, for whom Swami’s is named, recommends that when using the Om technique — you can do it as loud as you want to out here — that you repeat it 12 times, or multiples of 12, or something like that. I’m forgetting my Kriya yoga training a bit, but it always feels as if by the time you get to 12 you are definitely in a beautiful place. If you can’t feel peace floating off of the Self Realization Fellowship Meditation gardens and compound in Encinitas, then you’re probably too far gone.
You’d think you’d lose your equilibrium with your eyes closed, floating in a kayak, concentrating on your third eye, but by the fifth Om or so, you forget about all that. In fact, you forget about everything. Stress melts away. Usually, on this type of paddle, I am out here talking to God and the saints and all the great ones, looking for guidance or rescue or purpose or just Help, Lord. You know what I mean. So demanding we are, we excited little human souls.
Being alone on the ocean is a good place for this type of thing. Today, I was looking for help in redefining my purpose with my consulting and training business and with some big decisions that were coming up. The trick is to do the meditation part first, before you get into the asking-for-help part — so Yogananda says.
After the 12th Om, my eyes opened slowly. I inhaled again, feeling my lungs fill up all the way with a deep satisfying inhale. Just then — right friggin’ in front of me — pshwaa! A whale spout, and then the back of a juvenile whale, popped up.
"Well, how are you brother?" I said.
Whoosshh! Another whale — must have been his mom — pops up next to him and puts a healthy geyser 15 feet into the air. Yeah, baby! What a show. It’s late March and still whale season, but these two seem to be heading north. I try not to splash too much as they roll on their sides. I stare right through the water at their huge bodies. The little one pops up again, closer this time, and rolls over to give me a look with his eye. How cool is that?
I can see the barnacles and scars and crusty stuff all over their bodies. The little guy seems to be standing on his nose now. His triangular tail, about five feet wide, reminds me of a snorkeler’s fins popping out of the water. Every once in a while, the mom surfaces again, and it seems like I can count to five from when I first see her head to when her whole body finally curves over and there is her tail. Big Mama! What an incredible privilege it is to be this close to our giant cetaceous friends.
And now they are scaring up huge schools of anchovies, which run across the surface in every direction, trying to get away.
A white-headed pelican with a wingspan about three feet across hovers overhead. He looks excitedly confused because there are so many potential targets below. A fast-moving fin charges across the surface. I look down into the water and see a Jacques Cousteau–like rolling-and-turning mega-school of anchovies. What a scene.
Another big splash catches my eye, and suddenly a pod of 25 or so porpoise descend, feeding excitedly in a line, herding their own lunch, diving and jumping into them, with anchovies frantically jumping out of the water, trying to get away. Sometimes you wish you had a waterproof camera.
After all the excitement dies down, the whales disappear to who knows where. The porpoise boogie up the coast at top speed. I am smiling. How quiet it is out here again, how natural. Three young sea lions, about three feet long each, pop their curious noses out of the water, keeping their distance but clearly interested in all the action.
I head back with a wonderful peaceful feeling in my heart, a sense of thankfulness and appreciation for the beauty of our spectacular coastline. I can see from Carlsbad to La Jolla. Most people only see the small slice of the coast where they are — looking out. Too many people, too much development, and all fighting for a slice of view of this magnificent ocean. They should learn how to kayak. They might discover how awesome their backyard really is.
I sort out my business decisions with a particularly refreshing inspiration. And now there’s another Gunship 500 overhead — could it be the same guys? — slowing down to give me a good look. I do a paddle spin around my neck, and the universal coast-guard signal of one paddle wave. Yes, I see you. The helicopter hangs another second or two, then continues on.
The surfies in the Swami’s lineup watch uneasily as I go from a red speck on the horizon to floating right next to them. A bunch of old local hardcores are lined up, ready to cut one another out of the next one. I pull up next to the outside-most guy. He doesn’t expect this, doesn’t quite know how to handle being beside this big red potential shish kebab. I give him a big smile and say, “Could it be any nicer out here today?” He nods and smiles back, and I turn and catch a perfect swell and ride it all the way in.
— Bart Berry