In the summer of 2012, after almost a month of solo adventure in the Brazilian Amazon and the Pantanal, I went to meet my girlfriend and a couple of good Chilean friends to enjoy the coast of Brazil. Being the two couples in Praia de Lopes Mendes (Ilha Grande, Brazil) I lived another extreme experience that allowed me to learn a life lesson. Lopes Mendes Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil (3km of white sand, jungle, rocks, turquoise water, etc.) with a wave area perfect for surfers. There is usually a red flag and several signs warning of the danger of strong currents, and it even has a lifeguard watching the area.
My friend, surfer and amateur sailor, invited me to snorkel while the girls had a rest. We went to one end of the beach to snorkel. It seemed like a perfect idea since there were no swimmers or even surfers (the beach that day was empty). Although I did not consciously notice, as we walked to the site, we crossed signs that warned of the dangers of the water. We were motivated to find fish and got into the water convinced of this. At first, the visibility under water was not good, so my friend told me to keep swimming with the hope it could become clearer. I had full confidence in him, so it was okay for me. Later, the visibility did not improve, so we kept going. Finally, my friend gave in to the evidence and said that we could not snorkel and that we had to go back to the beach.
When I tried to look back at the beach, I could not see it, waves were getting high, but my friend pointed me in the right direction. After a while, we both stopped and realised that we had made no progress at all. In fact, we were getting further and further away from the beach. It was an unpleasant feeling. My friend told me to swim harder. We tried, but once again, without success. Then I realized that something was wrong, and in my head started to pass the images of the “danger” signs that we left behind. The intensity of my emotions increased and I felt fear. My friend told me that it was a dangerous situation and that we should hurry, that I should swim with all my strength. He started to swim again and slowly started to move forward. I was scared and tired, swallowing water. When he stopped to see if I could go forward, I shouted at him that I could not. He shouted back at me: << I cannot come and get you, we will both die. You are all alone >>.
Hearing those words meant a radical change for me. In that very moment, I felt my body surrender, and I dived into the water in order not to be hit by the waves and to keep swallowing water. Underneath, an unknown calm and silence embraced me. I wondered if that was my death. I stayed down in that stillness. I was alone. Suddenly, from my surrender came a clear determination to return to the shore and live. I knew what I wanted as I have rarely felt it. All my self-complaints and complaints towards my friend vanished. Everything converged on one thing only, getting out of there by myself. I emerged from the water and decided to swim with all my strength without holding anything back, without reservation, as if it were the last time. Without understanding and without asking myself anything, those first strokes allowed me to advance and without feeling the tiredness or the fear, I went on until I finally reached the beach.
I lay in the sand next to my friend; we both looked at each other without saying anything, we knew that what had happened would not be told to our girlfriends. When I got my breath back, I felt an urgent need to thank my friend for what he had told me. He saved my life. Somehow, I knew he had been my first coach. Why do I say that?
1. I felt that his non-intervention had been the intervention that had saved my life, or at least, had provided the space for it to happen.
2. I had given up hope, and then I had everything.
3. He helped me move from victimhood to an active state, responsible for my own fate.
4. My inner struggle ceased, that is, my fight between denying the situation or accepting it and doing something about it.
5. In that infinite stillness and silence, I had to put aside my negative thoughts and my self-destructive loops (which were hundreds at the time).
6. That state forced me to ask myself in a naked and stark way, if that was what life expected of me. A clear and concise answer emerged from my inner voice.
7. By leaving me completely alone, I had to connect with my internal resources.
8. My friend trusted me. In my worst situation ever, he believed that I could get out on my own.
9. My friend showed me the way in which I could do it, by starting to swim and moving towards the beach.
10. As I began to progress in my swimming, I became detached from all my thoughts and emotions, letting go of what was coming to me, and keeping my focus sharp.