Off the coast of a small island where people gather for healing, Beth Banning communes in sea. Snorkeling beside a boat, she stares eye-to-eye with a dolphin that seems to be transmitting a message. As incredible or unlikely as that sounds, Banning is not asking you to believe, but to join her on a journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening. The author claims to have experienced kundalini energy—an indwelling spiritual force that can be awakened within. For Banning, this has helped her on a path toward truth and ultimate self-understanding. With well-written and engaging prose, the hook is set from the opening passages. This memoir is constructed as an author-interview by God, in a sense the Socratic Method for the soul.
I opened the door of my room just as the sun was peeking its head up over the horizon, knowing this was our last day in Bimini. The clear turquoise water reflected the pink and gold, silver-edged clouds. I sat on the dock to meditate. My new mantra, “relax and receive,” washed through me and with every wave my body felt clearer, fresher and more vibrant.
A few minutes later Sukuma touched my shoulder, letting me know it was time for my massage. As I walked to the massage room, my enjoyment of this magical world dimmed as I remembered that close to this restful compound there was a population of people on this tiny island struggling with poverty, alcoholism, and AIDS. How could life be so peaceful and beautiful for me when there were so many people around me just barely surviving? I thought to myself. What a paradox. How could anyone be happy in the face of such suffering? It wasn’t just here that I encountered poverty and suffering, it was everywhere. At home in California, too, homeless people often stand at intersections with their handmade signs pleading for help. Where does our responsibility to help others begin and end? Can I fully enjoy this rare and wonderful trip while people around me suffer?
It was a long while before I could relax, but eventually the gentle pressure of Sukuma’s hands pushed these thoughts from my mind and I drifted in and out of sleep. Towards the end of the massage—beneath my closed eyelids—I began seeing spots—hundreds of curious, s, sparkling dancing little blue spots. I felt so peaceful that I didn’t concern myself with them. After the massage, the memory of the blue dots faded as I got my gear together for our final boat trip to swim with dolphins.
When we boarded the boat later that morning, even though I had improved with my snorkel gear, being confined on a 40-foot catamaran with 30 people was still stressful for me. Thank God for the natural beauty of this place. The sun’s rays cast glistening streaks of light onto the ocean. As the boat glided out of the bay, seagulls swooped around us, their white bodies reflecting the blue of the ocean beneath them. Along the way we were escorted by flying fish, sea turtles, and barracudas.
We sailed for some time and then a wave of energy rippled through the passengers. “Over there,” one person yelled. “Behind us, look!” another squealed. One scream of excitement after another popped from their mouths. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, they were all around us. “Oh my God,” someone yelled, “There are so many of them!” Over 50 dolphins surrounded the boat, jumping, playing, and enjoying themselves. Then I remembered why I was willing to get on this boat; it was the most enchanting sight I’ve ever seen.
Amlas, the head of the WildQuest crew, cautiously observed the dolphins to see if they wanted to stay and play with us. Standing on the bow of the boat with her blonde hair blowing in the wind, she watched closely as the dolphins swam away and then swam back. You could see how much she loved them in every bone of her thin, athletic body. When she gave us the signal to get ready, we all rushed to get our snorkeling gear on, eager to get in the water. The two best swimmers lowered themselves in first to see if the dolphins would stay. Yes, they wanted to play!
When it was my turn I grabbed the ladder and sank into the water. I wasn’t quite strong enough to keep up with the other swimmers, so I decided just to stay near the boat as it sailed slowly towards the dolphins. Suddenly I felt someone grab my wrist. It was Nipun, one of the crew members that I had become very attached to. His dark hair dripping water down the sides of his round face. I could tell by his sparkling brown eyes that he was up to something. He started to drag me toward the dolphins, swimming faster than I believed possible. My snorkel vibrated from the pressure of the water hitting it and I could hardly see through my goggles. Then suddenly I saw dolphins everywhere as he released me in the middle of the huge pod. I looked up and he stuck his thumb up in the air with a big grin.
All I could see were dolphins. Tears came to my eyes, and a wave of joy rippled through me as I watched them frolic with the swimmers. All too soon they were moving further and further away. But by then I’d had such an incredible experience I didn’t care that I couldn’t keep up.
When I reached the boat, almost everybody was already on board. I grabbed the ladder and hoisted myself out of the water. Everybody was squealing, giggling and telling their dolphin encounter stories as the boat moved on. And then we caught up with the dolphins, a second time! Again we stopped and played with them until they moved on. Then, as we were about to head home, a third pod appeared. Once again Amlas encouraged us into the water.
By this time I was very tired physically and emotionally, but it was my last opportunity to swim with the dolphins before we returned home. So I got my gear back on and once more slipped into the water. The others were far away, so I decided to let go of any expectations and just do my “relax and receive” meditation. I floated, face down in the water. After a little while I lifted my head and without warning a dolphin appeared right in front of me. I had a sense that she was female, and she must’ve been very old because she was covered with spots, a sign of age in spotted dolphins.
As I faced her in the water she scanned me with her sonar and I could feel the vibration move through my body. Then it was as if time stopped. As we floated—eye to eye—it was as though she were trying to tell me something. All of a sudden she closed her eyes and then almost brushed my shoulder as she swam away. It was one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had.
The boat was close by, and as I climbed up out of the water for the last time I heard the buzz of excited conversation. Then Amlas said, “I have a suggestion. You just had quite a remarkable encounter and I suggest that you all sit quietly and really take it in.” A wave of relief came over me as I realized how much I wanted to be quiet and let the experience sink in.
We all sat down silently. I closed my eyes, and the blue dots from the morning began to reappear in the blackness of my closed eyelids. I had forgotten about those blue dots from this morning’s massage, but here they were again. They began to move, change shape and create patterns as they danced around.
Suddenly I recognized them: they were bubbles! It was as though I was back in the water with the dolphins—with bubbles everywhere. Out from the middle of these bubbles swam the same old spotted dolphin that I had connected with moments before. Once again she came to me, eye to eye, as though she wanted to say something. I held very still and opened my mind to hers. Feelings of both joy and deep sadness rippled through me as my mind spun with visual images of both wondrous and devastating world events. Memories of this island’s poverty and pain, and my magical experiences here tumbled into the mix. And then it came—I sensed the dolphin was sending me a message. I knew something important was about to happen.
But how did I get here? What did it all mean, and how in the world was I able to receive a message from a dolphin in the first place? It all began when I started accepting, trusting, and following my internal guidance. You may or may not believe what you are about to read in this book, and that’s okay. But these seemingly crazy stories are now part of my “normal” life. Over the last few years I’ve learned to relax enough to receive some extraordinary gifts—gifts that are there for all of us if we’re open to them. This has been a miraculous journey that’s brought me to a place of extraordinary peace and happiness, and to a joy I didn’t know was possible. I promise this peace and joy is also available to you. Let me tell you my story.