Back from Vacation: Beach Holidays, Rip Currents, Salvation and Life Saving

Print This Post Print This Post August 24, 2008 on 5:35 pm | In Adventure, Awareness, Courage, Fear, Fitness, Relationships | Comments Off on Back from Vacation: Beach Holidays, Rip Currents, Salvation and Life Saving
El Arco, Cabo San Lucas

El Arco, Cabo San Lucas

I have just returned home from a family vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico yesterday evening, and am still trying to catch up on the email, bills, and other accouterments of modern life that accumulated during my absence.  Despite the piles of paperwork I need to deal with I decided to take a moment and treat myself to a brief blog entry to recount a couple of unusual happenings during my vacations.

The Cabo area of Mexico, situated at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, has some truly spectacular beaches, two of which in particular will remain in my memory for some time to come – Playa Los Cerritos and Playa del Amor

Playa Los Cerritos

Playa Los Cerritos

Playa Los Cerritos is located northwest of Cabo San Lucas on the Pacific coast of the peninsula and is a popular surfing beach.  As we were visting during low season, the beach was not crowded at all and we had lots of room to play in the waves.  Fortunately for us, the beach was not completely deserted, as even during low season the waves attract a fair number of surfers.

Although I consider myself a reasonably strong swimmer, I gained a new respect for the power of the Pacific Ocean as a result of our experience at Los Cerritos.  The western edge of this beach has some rock cliffs that we inadvertently discovered act as a natural barrier that sets up a very strong rip current out towards the sea.  My wife is not a very strong swimmer and does not like to go into water above her head: she therefore tends to be very cautious and stay close by me and my daughters whenever she ventures into the ocean – and it is a very good thing that she did so on the day we visited Los Cerritos.  While me and my daughters were body surfing the waves, my wife attempted to catch a ride and when she came up to the surface at the end of her ride found that the wave she was riding had pushed her close to rocks – and into the rip current. 

Although I had been lecturing my daughters on the drive up on what to do if they got caught in a rip current (swim parallel to the beach – perpendicular to the current – rather than trying to fight it) by the time I saw my wife and asked her if she was okay (the response was a firm “No!”), she was already very frightened and starting to panic as the water was too deep for her to stand in.  I swam to my wife as quickly as I could and told my daughter to go call for help.

Although it only took me 15 or 20 seconds to swim to my wife, by the time I reached her the water was also too deep for me to stand in, and now we were both in the middle of the rip current and being pulled out to sea.  Two things became readily apparent to me as soon as I told my wife to grab onto me:

  1. It is one thing to be a strong swimmer on your own and something entirely different to be a strong swimmer when assisting someone else.  Although my wife was not clinging to me around my throat or pushing my head under water, the fact that she was hanging on to me in a more or less vertical position made her body act like a sea anchor that caught the current and pulled us both in the direction of the current (out to sea).  Moreover, I am not trained in life saving, and initially attempted to swim with one arm around her – this did not prove particularly effective.
  2. It is much easier to intellectually know what one is supposed to do in an emergency situation from a theoretical standpoint than it is to actually act on that knowledge in an emergency.  Looking back at my initial reaction in the heat of the moment, I can see that I did precisely what I lectured my girls NOT to do: I tried to fight the current and swim back to shore so my wife would stop panicking.  Luckily, I came to my senses before I exhausted myself and told my wife to hold on to the back of my swim trunks (so I could swim with both arms) while I gradually swam perpendicular to the rip current and then once the current subsided headed back towards shore.

By the time I started swimming back towards shore I was pretty tired (and my wife could sense this) and we were quite a distance from the shore.  Although we were making slow progress towards the shore I was extremely relieved (elated!) when I saw a surfer that my daughter had managed to hail paddling out to help us.  When he finally reached us he asked us if this was some sort of joke – he was apparently confused by the fact that I was swimming towards shore without yelling while my wife was holding on to my swim trunks shouting for help.  I assured him that this was not a joke, and that we needed to put my wife on his surf board because she was essentially a non-swimmer in these water depths.

As soon as we got my wife onto the board I was able to breathe a sigh of relief – a huge weight had been taken off of my shoulders and now that everyone was horizontal / hydrodynamic it was a relatively quick and painless swim back to the shore.  We thanked the surfer profusely, and went back to sit down on the beach, catch our breath, and thank God for our salvation!  We were both shaken by this mishap, and I certainly gained a new level of respect for the power and immensity of the ocean.   I also gained a new level of appreciation for the strength, endurance and training it must take to be a competent lifeguard.

Playa del Amor

Playa del Amor

Our second vacation incident occurred four days later we visited one of the most famous beaches in Cabo San Lucas, Playa del Amor, which is situated next to the famous Arch (El Arco) of Cabo pictured at the beginning of this post.  The day we visited this beach was fairly rough and we had our hands full just getting off of the glass bottomed boat that took us out to the beach.  My wife quite rightly decided to stay out of the surf and spent most of her time photographing the amazing cliffs that surround the beach.  My daughters and I did a bit of snorkeling, but soon returned to the beach because the visibility was not that great due to sand being stirred up by the surf.  Moreover, we did not see the variety of marine life that we had seen at other beaches.

After my daughters and I returned to the beach and spoke with my wife, we decided to catch the next boat back to our hotel so that we could go to a calmer beach where my wife and youngest daughter (age 10) could enjoy themselves.  While we were waiting for our boat to return, we suddenly heard someone shouting for help.  Off to my left I could see a group of oriental tourists in the water pointing to a woman and young boy that had drifted away from the beach and were being pulled by the current towards the rock cliffs.  Like a number of beaches near Cabo, Playa del Amor does not have a lifeguard on duty. 

I gave my wife a quick glance, took a deep breath, and dove into to the water.  By the time I reached them someone else had already made it to the young boy (who had been thrown against the rocks by a wave and gotten pretty cut up) so I swam to the woman who was getting closer to the rocks and seemed to be in a state of shock.  She was not panicking, but she was also very unresponsive, so I started swimming with her back towards the beach in the meantime trying to keep her away from the rocks.  Another man quickly came out to assist me and we had her back on the beach in less than a minute.  Both the woman and the young boy were alright, although the young boy did have some pretty bad cuts on his side where he had been thrown against the rocks.  My feet and one of my legs had gotten cut while I was trying to fend off the rocks, but none of my cuts were very serious. 

As I went back to rejoin my family, I couldn’t help wondering – what message is Spirit trying to send me?  Why this emphasis on life saving during my vacation?  And why did that particular word – salvation – come into my head each time when I made it back to the beach?  As all of this just happened I do not have answers to these questions, but I do have a sneaking suspicion that answers will become apparent in the coming days and weeks.

Playa Santa Maria

Playa Santa Maria

As a final aside, I should mention that Baja California does have some very safe and relatively calm beaches as well!  Playa Chilenos and Playa Santa Maria in particular – which are quite close to one another, and located in between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo – are much more family friendly in terms of both waves and currents.  They are also superb snorkeling beaches with an amazing abundance of marine life. 

Playa Chilenos

Playa Chilenos

Playa Chilenos also has a feature that rates high on my list after our recent vacation experiences – a lifeguard!  So I can definitely still recommend Cabo San Lucas as an excellent beach destination – just be sure you know your capabilities and limitations before you venture too far out!

Lamborghini Dreams: Emblems of Success

Print This Post Print This Post August 1, 2008 on 7:47 pm | In Emotional, Failure, Financial, Fulfillment, Physical, Social, Spiritual, Success, Truth | Comments Off on Lamborghini Dreams: Emblems of Success
Lamborghini Countach

Lamborghini Countach

This past weekend I sold my Lamborghini Countach replica (pictured above), and in reflecting on my motives for wanting to sell it I realized that those motives are closely linked to the insights that led me to modify my approach towards weight loss and improving my physique.  One of the seeming mysteries of life is the way that insights and events in one aspect of your life can influence seemingly unconnected aspects.  Or is this really a mystery?  Although we tend to think of life in terms of categories – emotional, physical, relational, financial, spiritual, and so on – the reality is that these categories are simply convenient labels for specific aspects of the integrated whole that comprises our life.  Because life in a very fundamental sense is an integrated whole, perhaps it would be even more surprising and mysterious if changes in one aspect of my life did not impact the other aspects.

In any event, having just outlined some of the changes that have occurred in my approach to physical fitness and health let me draw some of the parallels with my decision to sell my Lamborghini.  To begin with let me state that for me the Lamborghini Countach is the ultimate sports car in terms of its style and appearance – indeed this is why I purchased it in the first place.  For pure looks the Countach is hard to beat, and anytime I was out and about in this car it always gathered a crowd.  The admirers generally fell into one of two categories: people that had never seen a car anything like this before and liked what they saw, and people who had admired the Countach since they were young and considered it their ultimate dream car.  I can say from having had the experience of owning and driving this car around Houston I have had at least a glimpse of what celebrity must feel like.  It was not at all unusual for me to pull up at a traffic light and have people roll down their windows so they could take pictures of my car with their cell phones or their digital cameras!

So in terms of surface appearances, this car was all I could ask for.  But as I mentioned above, this car is actually a Lamborghini replica – not a genuine Lamborghini Countach.  The genuine article would cost a minimum of $100,000 and can easily be considerably more than than depending on the condition of the vehicle.  My car was fiberglass replica mounted on a Pontiac Fiero chassis (modified to match the wheelbase of the Lamborghini).  As such most of the “guts” of this vehicle – in other words, its underlying structure – are actually from a 1985 Fiero.  Because the fiberglass body makes the car very light, the original transverse mounted Pontiac V-6 actually makes this car fairly responsive – although it obviously nowhere near as fast or maneuverable as the authentic V-12 Lamborghini.  The advantage of the replica (above and beyond the reduced price tag) is that it is affordable to insure and drive, and unless you are very familiar with original vehicle it is very difficult to distinguish from the real McCoy.

Although the chassis, engine, and transmission are all standard Pontiac components, pretty much everything else is custom manufactured and therefore very difficult to find and expensive to purchase when something goes wrong.  For example, I had to replace one of the hinges on the trademark scissor-style doors and that little episode took almost a year to complete as I searched in vain for the necessary parts and eventually had to have a custom hinge fabricated!

Lamborghini - Scissor Doors

Lamborghini - Scissor Doors

So although this car looked great, it did not perform to anything even close to the original Lamborghini, but it was very much like the authentic Lamborghini in that maintenance and repairs tended to be very expensive and time consuming.  Driving this car did give me a good feel for some of the sacrifices that need to be made in order to support its stylish lines.  The most obvious of these is limited visibility.  Rear visibility is extremely limited due to the minuscule size of the rear window, so much so that the side mirrors truly are your best friend when driving in heavy traffic.  One problem with my replica was that these side mirrors could only be adjusted by hand, and since the windows did not roll down this posed quite a challenge if a mirror went out of alignment while driving!  My friends used to joke that there was no need to worry about this limitation, since the motto of anyone driving a car that looks like this one should be “what is behind me is unimportant!”

Now the parallels between the nature of this replica car – great surface appearances, but less than an ideal underlying structure – and my discussion about improving my physique are obvious and don’t need to be spelled out.  But as I have been trying to do in other aspects of my life, let’s dig a little deeper and see what really lies beneath the surface – for it says a lot about the transformation that Spirit is helping me to manifest in my life.  The fact that the surface appearance of this vehicle masked a less than spectacular underlying structure is just the tip of the iceberg.

What Lies Beneath the Surface

What Lies Beneath the Surface

My desire to sell this car was germinated over a year ago, when I earnestly began to examine my life in light of what seemed to be missing – a sense of purpose and fulfillment.  Despite having “status” and a fancy job title, plenty of money, toys and diversions (like my “Lambo”), it was clear that something fundamental was missing in my life.  It turns out that that “something” was a relationship with Spirit – with God.  As I shifted my focus from the material to the spiritual, I naturally began to examine the underlying structures and premises that had defined my life up to that point.  I did not like what I saw.

Most of my life was organized around the principle of success, and unfortunately my definition of success at the time was profoundly influenced by our consumer oriented society.  Success was essentially equivalent to monetary wealth and the associated attributes – large and expensive houses, fancy cars, and so on – and in this sense my Lamborghini replica was one the emblems of my success.  It was a visible, public indication that I was a “successful” person – never mind the fact that underneath that surface appearance I was really asking myself: it this all there is?  Is the purpose of life to simply get better, higher paying jobs so you can buy more stuff so you can impress the people around you?  And who was I trying to impress anyways?

As I worked on really understanding and untangling those structures – mainly through my work with the SpiritWeavers group, but also based on some of the internal work I had been doing following Robert Fritz’s Your Life As Art workshop – it became clear that a central component of my self-definition was framed in terms of failure and success.  It also became clear that this aspect of self-definition was completely bogus.  As I noted in my previous post on Embracing Setbacks: Harnessing the Power of Failure, from a spiritual perspective my intrinsic value and worth as a person is in no way linked to my success or failure.  Owning and driving a Lamborghini – even an authentic Lamborghini – does not make me a better person than someone who drives a Hyundai!  What really lay beneath the surface was a profound, almost overwhelming sense of my own unworthiness and lack of intrinsic value – and the role of my emblems of success was to disguise and hide that sense of inadequacy.

Just where that sense of inadequacy came from I really don’t know.  All I can affirm is that it was deep seated and led to a life strategy of earning and proving my self-worth by succeeding – in school, in my career, and in my finances.  Although this strategy did not lead to genuine sense of fulfillment, it managed to keep me distracted and busy enough to get me through most of my adult life up until a few years ago in a relatively happy state.  However, the was always a nagging sense of incompleteness lurking beneath the surface, and it was this sense of “something missing” that led me to start pursuing other avenues for personal growth and fulfillment.  Not surprisingly, that pursuit led me to my current explorations of spirituality and a deep re-examination of my life purpose and priorities.

And so now it is time to bid a fond farewell to my Lamborghini Dreams and to fully embrace the adventure of exploring what lies beneath the surface!

Farewell to Lamborghini Dreams

Farewell to Lamborghini Dreams

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