Of all the amazing adventures to be had in this big wild world, one of the best has to be swimming with these beautiful creatures. The stingrays at Stingray City are in their “natural” habitat, not caged or confined in any way.
Their only training is their past experience.
That is, the people who show up on boats are nice to us, the rub our bellies and bring us dinner. No doubt, they’ve endured many uncomfortable moments. They’ve heard the shrieks and squeals above the water more often than they’d like. They’ve been stepped on, scratched, and dropped.
Over the years they’ve learned to gauge who is safe and who isn’t.
The guides tell us, those rays are paying attention. They can sense everything about you. They sense every small movement of your muscles, the rate of your heartbeat, the tone of your voice. Each one gives them a clue about what’s going to happen next.
(They sense, especially well, the smell of the squid your sister just rubbed on the back of your swimsuit. At that point, they’re not concerned about your squealing. . .all they want is that squid!)
They can tell when they’re safe.
On this trip, one of the stingrays seemed extra happy and peaceful resting in the arms of our guide. So I asked if I could give it a go. He passed her over and she let me hold her. I held her for what felt like an eternity. I whispered softly to her like she was my little pet and apparently she liked it. I rubbed her belly and “danced” gently with her when the waves pushed us around.
She felt safe.
It was a magical moment for me. The rest of the world got quiet and it felt like it was just the two of us together there in the ocean, dancing, connecting. I was looking in her eyes, watching for clues in her giant soft body to tell me how she was doing, and she was doing the same. For her, it may have been just another day in paradise, but for me, it was a moment I’ll never forget.
It was a vivid reminder of what happens when we shut everything else out to focus on truly connecting with another person.
We’ve all been “trained” by our past experiences to pay attention and judge who is safe. Even without realizing it, we sense things about other people before we’ve even met. We noticed the way they look, the way they act and how they speak. We make judgements in advance about whether we want to get closer, whether or not they are safe.
That part comes naturally and it works to protect us from pain.
But when we allow ourselves to focus only on staying safe, we miss out on opportunities for deeper connection. We have to risk a little bit of our safety to be a safe place for others. That part doesn’t come as naturally. It takes more work and intention.
But that is where the magic happens.
The magic of connection. As Harriet Lerner says, connection is a dance. It requires paying attention and showing up vulnerably at the same time.
It takes practice.
That’s why Melissa Blair is Coming to talk with us about this topic in two weeks at our Sex, Love, and Friendship GNO, honest conversations that would make your mama blush. She’s going to guide us toward being a safe place for the ones we love. She’s going to teach us to swing the door to connection wide open. To dive in to the conversations that might make us uncomfortable at first, but that will build a lasting connection.
A safe place.
In the long run, a loving connection is the only safe place.
That’s the magic of connection.
to more love (and connection),
P.S. If you’re not local/can’t attend GNO, we have something special for you too! Melissa is going to be joining us live on Facebook to answer your hard questions about all the things soon. So make sure you’re following our page and have your notifications turned on. We’ll send out an announcement in advance.