The right side of our 80-person boat hit the water, then the left, then the right.
It was as if the ocean was playing a vicious game of tennis or ping-pong and our ferry was the ball.
We were on the 9:30am ferry from Bali to the Gili Islands and sitting in the front row. The Bintang cooler was at our feet and the crew members were getting close to drunk. They had been grabbing the beers, about 6 at a time, & handing them up to other crew members. I imagined 6 of them on the top of the boat, cheers-ing, while blatantly disregarding our safety.
Smack, smack, smack. White frothy ocean waves smacked up against the windows.
Adding to my distress was the comment someone made the day before about how the US sells boats that are no longer safe to run to countries like Indonesia. True? Not sure, but the travel website did warn that some of these boats sink.
My mind was racing & I was sure our 3rd world boat was about to go down.
This was the fast boat, you can get to the Gili Islands in 1-3 hours depending on which boat you take. From the safe shore of Bali, the 1-hour ride was a no-brainer. Now, I’m not so sure. I thought to myself, “Are boats like this even supposed to go this fast?” I don’t think so. The ocean continued spanking us.
The two guys to my left, clearly going to Gili T., the “Party Island,” began throwing up. Next to get sick was girl sitting behind me. I was consumed by fear and feeling pretty sick myself.
My friend, who owns a boat, looked calm as could be. She suggested I stop looking out the windows and stop watching the movie, that I close my eyes and focus on my breath. Of course I should! Obviously. I mean, I teach meditation, I should know this…
When fear strikes, becoming present is the solution.
Fear is a mind projection, it isn’t real. It is impossible to cope with the future. And that is what I was trying to do. I was trying to manage what I’d do if we sank. So I paused and closed my eyes.
I asked myself the question, “What am I afraid of?”
The obvious answer was dying. But when I took the time to reflect, I didn’t actually think we were going to die. I thought we were going to tip over, the boat would sink, and we’d all live. It’d be intense, we’d be cold, but we’d live.
OK, so I asked myself again, “What am I really afraid of right now?” And then my fear became clear.
OMG… I’m afraid of losing my Apple products!
WOW. Yep, I’m afraid of losing mylaptop, iPad and iPhone. Well, and my passport & credit card.
“I’d probably have to go back to the States. My Bali adventure would be over. Life without my Apple products is not worth living…!!” I was trying to manage the future.
Although life without technology could be scary, I was clearly having an irrational fear. I was surprised & little embarrassed to find that I am so attached to my stuff. I mean, this is right after getting rid of half of my stuff with the help of a Minimalism Coach a few weeks ago!
I decided to close my eyes for the second half of the boat ride. I focused on my breath and moved with the boat. When my eyes had been open and looking out the windows my body was tight, I had been fighting what was happening. With my eyes closed, I was surrendered, breathing calmly and my nausea stopped progressing.
By shifting my attention from what I can’t control (the speed and safety of the boat, the ocean’s waves) to what I can control (my internal world) I relaxed.
Peace of mind was not available to me in the moment, but I was able to find a much more peaceful state than the, “I’m going to lose my stuff, we are going to sink!” frantic mind frame. And while I may have been in real danger, the frantic thoughts were of no benefit to the situation.
When we arrived at the party island Gili T., two dozen tourists came down from upstairs. I hadn’t realized that from the back of the boat you could go upstairs… The crew wasn’t drinking after all!
My feared out perspective had gathered false information to strengthen it’s reality.
This is normal functioning of the mind. And it isn’t helpful. Fear can blind us from seeing clearly. I smiled at my blurred vision and continued peacefully breathing as we pulled out of Gili T. and headed to our final destination, the island Gili Air.
The next time you find yourself in a fearful or frantic state, I invite you to:
1. Ask yourself what you’re really afraid of.
2. Bring your attention to the present moment. Move your body, focus on your breath, or connect somehow to what is actually happening in the moment.
3. Shift your focus from what you can’t control to what you can.
This will give you some perspective & relief when you need it most.