Letting Go – An Adventure with Wild Spinner Dolphins

I started researching dolphin swim programs and trips.
Later that summer, I attended an engagement party for
friends where I met Jon, a personal growth and workshop
leader. He was leading a trip to Hawaii the following March
to swim with the wild spinner dolphins on the Big Island of
Hawaii. Our mutual interests soon sparked into romance. I
signed up for the trip and agreed to help design the visuals
for his flyers and advertising. I was thrilled! In my
imagination I immersed myself in the dancing waters of
Kealakekua Bay, I flew with the Goddess Pele over rivers of
underground molten lava and sacred caves, and I felt the
breath of balmy ocean breezes on my skin.

As the months went by and we got closer to our departure
date, I began to wonder what the chances were, realistically,
of actually finding the dolphins. After all, we were meeting
them somewhere out in one of the largest natural bays in
the Hawaiian islands. I felt a great sadness well up inside
me as I considered the possibility that this encounter might
not happen. For days I struggled within myself, wanting to
prepare myself for a very real scenario — the likelihood that
they would not be there. Over and over I’ve observed this
dilemma between the doubting mind and the heart. The
heart longs and aches, and the mind scrambles to protect
us from disappointment, from failure, from disillusionment.
For days I prayed and had conversations with the dolphins
in my head. Finally, I came to a place of letting go. I let go of
my attachment to seeing them. If they chose not to come,
that was okay. I would still enjoy my vacation in Hawaii.
Nothing would be lost. In fact, everything would be perfect
just as it was.

It was at this place of detachment, of letting go and
surrender, that something miraculous happened. I was very
busy with work the week before we were scheduled to leave.
I was putting in long hours, and I had countless details to
attend to. Then, in the midst of all this pre-occupation and
noise, I started to hear something else. I started to hear,
faintly at first and then louder, small distinct chirpings and
whistlings. It became unmistakable — it was the sound of
dolphins, and it got louder. I don’t believe this, I thought. I
signaled back anyway: Thank you for communicating, but
now I’m having a hard time concentrating. All week long it
was like being tuned into a very special and exclusive radio

At the end of the week we flew from San Francisco to the
town of Kona on Hawaii. From the air I could see the
moonlike lava landscape of the west shore. We arrived at
our beautifully situated hotel south of town, ate dinner and
then headed for bed. We were scheduled to wake up early,
at 5 a.m. the next morning, to carpool to Kealakekua Bay
with our wetsuits and snorkel gear. In the haziness of early
morning light we sheepishly greeted one another, coffee
cups in hand. My heart hammered in my throat. The moment
had arrived. Would the dolphins show up for their date — an
invitation made through the ether and precipitated in the
heart? Slowly, we drove the winding road down towards the
glistening waters of the bay and pulled into a sandy parking
lot. Large red hibicus flowers lay strewn across the ground.
I walked toward the beach, and then I saw it — the splash of
a single dolphin jumping just off shore.

I was so astonished that I started to cry. I realized then that if
this was to be the only contact we had with the dolphins all
week, I would still be extraordinarily happy. To me, they had
decided to keep our date. Later, at the end of our swim, I
spoke briefly with an old Hawaiian man who sat watching
our foray out into the water. He grinned and quietly
commented, “They haven’t been here for weeks, but today
they are here.”

We did find a huge pod of dolphins — or perhaps they found
us. They showed up on each of the three days we had
hoped to swim with them. It was magical and extraordinarily
dreamlike — like being in an altered state of reality or
another dimension. In the evening Jon led us in
meditations. “Visualize,” he said. “What more do you want to
create for yourself with the dolphins?” My inner vision had
been flooded with brilliantly colored pictures of the dolphins
ever since our first swim in the water. It was like watching

my own inner nonstop movie. I wondered — was I creating
the pictures, or were the dolphins sending them to me? As I
sat quietly attending to the in and out of my breath, I saw
myself gazing into the eye of a dolphin as it slowly swam
next to me. Then another one leapt high up in front of me.
The next morning I found myself transfixed by the gaze of a
dolphin as he gracefully swam past me. Then a loud splash
caught my attention as a dolphin leapt into the air, spraying
me with water. I laughed out loud. They must have gotten my
message. Or maybe I got theirs.

One of the things we discovered was that the dolphins liked
playing a game with leaves. They particularly seemed to like
the large yellow leaves that floated out from shore. The
dolphins would pass them from one fin to another,
sometimes catching them on their flukes (tails) or carrying
them on their rostrums (their long beaklike jaws). As a
group we decided that we would come down to the bay for a
fourth day and bring the dolphins a gift of leaves and
flowers. That last morning we carefully swam out with our
gifts, looking for the dolphins, but they had disappeared. We
had not had a prior agreement to swim with them, and in
their enigmatic fashion they had quietly vanished. We
returned to the beach, and on the sand we created a
farewell mandala of shells, red hibiscus flower petals and
yellow leaves. I was touched by the delicate beauty of our
fragile creation. It seemed appropriate that our last
encounter would be with our group together standing in a
circle holding hands, with the temporal beauty of nature
spread out at our feet.

The teaching for me here was about the power of the heart,
of letting go and surrendering. What I learned was that we
are enormously powerful if we choose to create out of love. I
felt as though I understood in a new way the old adage: Let
go, and love will find you. With the distance of hindsight, my
mind would sometimes argue that I tend to have a very
overactive imagination and that I am a prime candidate for
hearing and seeing things. How would I ever know whether
the dolphins would have shown up regardless of anything I
did or felt? Wasn’t it all just a matter of random chance?
Over the years, however, the truth of these experiences has
become more and more palpable. The dolphins are a
constant reminder to check in with myself and to ask
whether a wish for something or someone is truly coming
from my heart. If the answer is yes, then those things — be
they people, projects, places, experiences — seem to come
towards me. They do show up. It is not a logical road.
If my desire is coming from a place of ego or of trying to
control a situation, the outcome is less predictable. The
“message” doesn’t seem to get through — or if it does, it
doesn’t seem to have much power. Over and over again, I
have heard the communications to relax and
surrender and let go. As a result, I find that I cry
more, and I laugh more. I try to let myself be in the river of
life, no matter how scary it may sometimes appear — to go
with the flow rather than trying to resist it. I try following my
intuition or my gut, often down a seemingly illogical path.
Ultimately, the power of Love seems to find a way. It
appears to be irresistible.

Since these initial experiences, I have become familiar with
the term telempathy, a phrase coined by Joan Ocean,
who has spent years swimming with the wild spinners in
Hawaii. Telempathy is a combination of telepathic and
empathetic communication, or empathy at a distance.
Empathic communication occurs when we experience the
exact sensations of someone or something else with whom
we are emotionally close. My own experience has shown
me that dolphins tend to be extremely empathic. They seem
to have the ability to feel the pain and emotional state of
another being. This, combined with their echolocation or
imaging skills — the ability to project clicking sounds
(created in the air sacs beneath the blowhole) out in front of
them, then interpret the soundwaves as they are reflected
back, thereby determining the size and distance of foreign
objects — seems to make for a very sophisticated form of
telepathy. I am reminded of a woman in our group on our
trip to Hawaii who was pregnant. She didn’t go into the
water for the first couple of days because she felt tired from
the flight. When she finally did, she was surrounded by
dolphins who seemed to show a particular interest in her. It
was if they knew she was carrying a child and needed
special attention. The combination of these two skills — the
ability to be empathic and also to “see through things” —
makes the dolphins especially suited as “healers” (by their
very presence) and as messengers, perhaps even cosmic

When people ask if dolphins have changed me, I say that I
seem to have more dreams now and fewer plans than I
used to. I hold my dreams out in front of me and then let
them go. Invariably my dreams show up in unexpected ways
and sometimes in new forms — here we are, it’s time,
here’s the connection or the opportunity. I worry less
about the details and spend more time putting color into my
daydreams, adding scents and enjoying the warmth of the
sun on my skin.

In the midst of great change or loss I am reminded to trust
that everything is unfolding perfectly. Stay calm, listen and
catch the next wave. I try to practice living in dolphin time. To
me dolphins live in circular time as opposed to linear time.
For many of us life appears to move in straight lines, but
perhaps it is more accurate to say it moves in many
directions at once perfectly synchronized. We are not
separate from one another, but part of a much greater pod
that has its own intelligence. Our job is just to tune in and
then get out of our own way.

Karin Kinsey is a Bay Area freelance travel writer and graphic designer. She leads dolphin encounter trips and has explored such places as Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean and British Columbia in search of marine mammal life. Excerpted from Dancing on Water: Adventures with Dolphins, Whales and Interspecies Communication (Dolphin Press, 2005). See http://www.dolphinpress.com/DancingOnWater/

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