Yesterday my husband and I arrived at the Bight, a cove off Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands. We took the dinghy to the beautiful beach just in front of Pirates Bar, which was closed because of hurricane season. The beach was still beautiful and we were looking forward to enjoying some R&R in the sunshine and warm waters.

The one thing that I dislike in the water there is jellyfish. We saw not just the traditional little 3-4” jellyfish, but on this visit the BVI was plagued with “Box jellyfish”- some bigger than a foot in diameter. In all my trips here I’ve never had experience with this kind of jellyfish. I’ve been stung by the little ones and it’s a painful experience similar to a nasty bee sting. Throughout the week we’d heard stories from the other boaters of people being stung, with nasty consequences including hospital visits.

There were several people on the pier as we docked. One of the gentlemen asked me to talk his wife into getting into the water. She was frightened of being hurt by because the resident manta ray from under the dock that was swimming about. I explained to her that we come there often and this creature was a harmless ray, not a stingray. She talked about the recent tragic death of Steve Irwin by a stingray. I tried to explain to her that this was a different species and was harmless and invited her to join me in the water, to which she said, “Maybe”.

My husband and I walked down the beach a bit, dropped our towels and dove into the crystal clear blue waters. It was so very beautiful and refreshing. Our new friend watched us swim around for a bit, and then eventually she and her husband joined us in the water. It was the perfect day and the perfect beach for a swim- no jellyfish in sight. We enjoyed a few hours of heaven in the water.

It stuck me that our new friend would have missed this incredible experience because of fear. It made me wonder about my own life and wonder what was my manta ray? What fear is holding me back in areas of my life? What’s lurking underneath my dock that’s keeping me from diving into the beautiful waters of life? What if the things in my life that I believe are stingrays are only manta rays? The only thing that makes them dangerous could be my thoughts and my perception of them.

The next morning as I was still pondering that thought, we went snorkeling at my very favorite spot in the world. It’s a group of rocks off of Norman Island, called the Indians. My husband didn’t feel like snorkeling so I decided to go alone. As I was swimming towards the reef, I passed a small jellyfish about 4” in diameter. I immediately turned around and started swimming back to the boat when I realized I’d metaphorically found my “stingray”. I asked myself if I was freaking myself out over one little jellyfish. So, I turned around and determinedly swam back toward the reef. I was still a bit concerned but didn’t want to wimp out and swim for the boat just because my mind was playing head games with me. I don’t want to miss out on any aspect of life because of fear, so I swam on.

When I got to the spot where I remember the best snorkeling of my life, I looked around and there just 15 feet below me, was one of the biggest jellyfish I’ve ever seen. In my mind I was certain he wanted to sting me. I’m sure that wasn’t reality, but in my mind I believed he was waiting for me. I heard the theme from Jaws in my mind. I wondered if my paranoia over jellyfish created them there just for me to deal with. Regardless, I decided it was a smart time to wimp out. As I turned and headed back to the boat- a swim of only a minute or two, I realized I was surrounded by jellyfish. I stopped and looked at a dozen or more, each 3” to 6” in diameter, and each one a few feet from another. There was no way out but to keep swimming- very carefully. I felt like I was swimming through a minefield and frantically swam as fast and as carefully as I could back to the boat. As my husband pulled me out of the water, I was very grateful to have made it through the jungle of jellyfish without being stung.

I shared with Darryl how I was afraid because of the thoughts in my mind of what a jellyfish that large could do to me, but determined to snorkel and not allow my thoughts of fear to hold me back. Darryl pointed out that sometimes our survival instinct is there for a reason, and that often the difference between fear and respect is knowledge.

Going back to my metaphorical stingray, it all made sense. We all know what we’re afraid of. What we sometimes fail to notice is whether or not this fear is justified or not. If through education and experience I know that it’s not a stingray, but a friendly manta, then I’m jumping in to the ocean of life and playing full out.

I’ll still watch for the stingrays and jellyfish in my life- in and out of the water. Something tells me that these little guys were here for a reason and if I pay attention, I just might learn more from them- about life and about myself. Maybe someday I’ll actually be able to appreciate them too.

Author's Bio: 

The Self Growth Official Guide to Inspiration is Gail Lynne Goodwin. Gail Lynne Goodwin, known as the Ambassador of Inspiration, has been lifting people's spirits for years. Motivated by mentors like Jack Canfield, Wayne Dyer and others, Gail realized the importance of daily morning inspiration in her own life. After years of gathering and sharing some of the best available inspirational wisdom with others, she founded Inspire Me Today in 2008 to make the Best of the Best Inspiration Daily, easily available to the world. Get daily inspiration and your free "Secrets to Soaring" eBook at Now!

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