A jump into freedom (a personal story)


“Take a dip in the ocean”, she said. “Why don’t you strip down to your swimsuit, run straight in and dive under the next wave?”  What  a strange lady to be telling me to do this? I don’t even know who she is or where she came from. Yet she wants me to run into the ocean.

My first thought. Yes! This looks like so much fun. Before she knew it I was all wet and asking for more.

Only this action was in my mind. I still stood frozen on the side of the beach watching the water lap up against my feet teasing and tempting me.  I can’t just jump in, I told myself. What is under the surface? What is lurking below? How will I be ok?

It did not matter that there were people all around me laughing and jumping around in the water. No this was irrelevant.  You see I was the one with the phobia, they obviously were not.

So I stayed anchored, strong in my ground. I was not budging. No, today was not the day to conquer my fear of sharks. It didn’t matter that I used to windsurf, that was on the surface, not underneath.

As I waited and wondered, more people streamed past me.  They joined the throng of others cooling down on this hot summer day.  Not me. What a wimp I was compared to all those immersed in the water. Could I not muster up even a moment of courage and try? Oh how I wish.

So I waited.

And I waited.


Bored. Frustrated. By myself. Not having fun.

It was hot. It was stinking hot and I was perspiring enough to look like I had already had my dip.

I tried logic. Yes I went through the statistics, the rationale and reason.  Yes I know, there are more accidents on the road than there are shark attacks etc.

But then I quickly jumped back to the stories in the papers of people surviving, not surviving. I saw the dangers as real and not just in the movies, even though this is where my phobia started.

My logic soon tired out and I no longer could rationalise my way out of at least getting in the water.  Not hard for most, a giant wall to assail and climb over for me.

So I stopped my worry and wondering for a moment.  I turned inward to this little person inside of me and had a chat.  

What are you so worried about?

Oh nothing really, just dying from a shark.

Oh is that all.  Do you think that worrying is going to help you get anywhere.

Yes, well at least it keeps me safe and dry.

But you are missing out on the surface support.  Being far away from all is not for you.

I don’t know what it was but something else took over. I felt this surge of energy well up inside of me from my feet to my head. I was buzzing. I was ready. But not enough. I risked a dip up to my waist but no further into the deep water.


Fast forward several years.

I am now on a boat anchored off the shore of an island in Australia.  The boat ride to our spot compounded my nerves with a doubling over from sea sickness. I was in no state to even move let alone jump in the water.  And there was still this lurking, creeping, hanging age old fear of sharks. How in the world could I jump in the water. It was deep. I could not see anything below me. No way.

But then I saw others in the water.  I also had a flash. I saw me in the water. I saw me free. I saw me alive. I saw me swimming full of life. It was a moment but a glimmer of the possibility.  So again I had one of those little chats with myself. (Yes you are noticing this is a habit of mine.) 

It just so happened I was on a spiritual personal development retreat. I was in this place to heal, grow and let go of limitations and fears. I knew what was holding me back. I knew they were creations of mine meaning I could also change them. It was my experience, no one else’s.  I created in my mind the association of sharks with some bad experiences in my life that were entirely unrelated.  It was my choice what I did. I could stay on the boat and regret not swimming or I could jump in.

So I connected. I connected to a place in me that was not filled with fear but love. I went into a place that I can only describe as peace. I was surprised to find this feeling amidst all the distracting fear self talk.  This place was calm, light, fun, joyful and me. This was the real me. This was the little girl before my life went in a direction of lost innocence. This was the unbridled, life loving, expansive me that came into this world. I remembered her. I remembered what it felt like to be uninhibited, carefree and in the moment.

As I connected to this new place inside of me I noticed that the feeling expanded more. I was very aware. Imagine you are holding in each of your hands two feelings. In one hand is the feeling of fear in the other is the feeling of joy. Forever the feeling of fear held me back, down and dwarfed the feeling of joy.  I could not even notice the joy in the other hand.  Yet in this moment the balance changed. The joy of being me, the joy of being alive, the joy of the moment took over and completely obliterated the fear.  Instead of holding each in different hands I was now arms outstretched trying to hold in immense joy, fun, excitement. It was amazing. And all of this in just minutes.

No one noticed. Others on the boat were disembarking into a boat for a ride to the shore. A couple of people had grabbed flippers and masks and were on their way swimming. Here I stood.  I stripped down to my swimmers. I grabbed some gear. Then I stood. I stood on the edge of the boat and looked out at the welcoming refreshing expansive green blue water waiting to embrace me. I stretched out my arms like an eagle and I soared as a ball of joy into the water.

I was free. I was alive. I was me.

I jumped into freedom.

One year on I can still go back to this feeling as if I am in it now. I also still work on holding the joy and not the fear. It is a conscious journey but one I gladly take every day. 

Jenn Shallvey