Updated: Oct 28, 2022
A Deep-Down Star
My longest swim offshore culminated in a deep dive one afternoon as I practiced the Prayer of the Heart, a yogic (yoga, from the Sanskrit, literally means divine union) meditation which is closely allied to today’s most popular forms of meditation, including self-inquiry, lovingkindness, zazen, vipassana and Kriya Yoga. Having carefully practiced each of these techniques, I chose to specialize in Kriya about a decade ago, having found it truly universal and effective.
I began my long swim just watching the reef life while I practiced the Jesus Prayer, my mantra. As I went along, I became more and more absorbed in the prayer, and in the little drama I saw playing out below me in the sand and coral. After about an hour, I found I had come out farther than ever. The sea was crystal clear below me; the bottom only appeared to be about ten feet deep. I would learn later that this optical illusion was the result of the water’s clarity and of the flatness of the sand, far, far below.
A few boats zoomed by—this was Waikiki after all. But, for the most part. my world was silent except for the pacific sounds of laughing, snorkeled waves. Having come at least three-quarters of a mile offshore, I decided to test the depth. Treading water slowly, breathing deeply, I prepared for a dive. After a while, a police boat motored up to let me know I was too far from home. “One more dive!” I said in a commanding voice. The boys in blue stopped shouting, and motored off.
I had plunged all the way to the bottom a few times that afternoon, as I made my way offshore, and had gone deeper than fifteen meters; the water below was about twice that depth, I knew. I had brought a hand-line with me, to test the depth; I dropped the lead down, down, down till it penetrated into the sugar-colored sand; I held the line at the middle of the wave-crests which were about two meters in height. Marking the depth with a bobber, I stored the plumbline in my pocket so that I could make an accurate measurement when I returned to the apartment.
I had dived, once, and failed to reach the bottom. Nonetheless, I had gone deep enough to notice a huge starfish resting on the fine sand, in the middle of an expansive aquamarine flat. The water was clear enough that I could make out the markings of that large starfish from the surface. I centered myself over the top of the lonely star and, as the last boat disappeared toward Diamond Head, and civilization, I took several deep breaths while praying my prayer rhythmically, “Jesus, I trust in you.” I practiced like that for several minutes until I knew intuitively and yogically that I had absorbed a sufficient amount of oxygen (and prana) into my bloodstream to make it to the bottom and back.
I shot down quickly, kicking with both fins and pulling with both arms. Clearing my ears at about twenty feet, I continued along till I was half-way to the bottom. I cleared my ears again and then pulled myself deeper as much by pure will power as by the thrust of my fins. Now as deep as I’d ever been, I could feel the pressure of atmospheres on my ears and lungs, and I focused my whole being on the starfish just ahead. Somehow, I knew I would be able to reach it!
My ears felt a lot of pressure again but I knew that if I cleared them one last time, I would lose too much air. I decided to keep rushing forward. Sprinting the last stretch, I struck the bottom with my hand and grabbed the starfish, triumphantly. Quickly, I spun around, placing my feet on the sandy bottom. I kicked off hard. A billow of fine sand followed me for several seconds as I shot fast toward light. And air!
My lungs were burning. Soon, I knew, I would be able to break through the rumbling waves. I pulled hard with one hand and kicked with both fins. As I moved toward the light, the pressure on my lungs, ears and frame gradually dissolved—I was hungry for air! Finally, my head broke through the luminous surface, and I inhaled deeply! Feeling great relief, I pulled the large starfish out of the water, admiring its simple geometry, in shimmering shades of wet gold.
It is worth noting here that Kriya Yogis learn to visualize a star shape during meditation as they draw prana up into the highest chakras, especially the ajna chakra, or third eye, gate of divine intuition. Gradually, advanced yogis learn the secrets of the meditation masters, as they gain the power to pierce the five-pointed star of the ajna chakra in transcendental ecstasy, samadhi, divine union. For a liberated yogi, this process becomes routine, perpetual. Yogananda’s Kriya Yoga brings peace, prosperity and healing power through its dutiful and proper practice.
Now that I was at the surface, I thought of the star shape I had learned to visualize in meditation and, holding my starfish, I prayed a silent prayer of praise and thanksgiving as I watched the broad sea stretch out before me, in all directions. The sound of the waves became a quiet mantra as I gently released the star back into the clean, cool depths. From the surface, I watched with some awe as my starfish spun, sinking slowly toward the sand. Smiling as it sank, I saw it kiss the sand, giving off a tiny puff of silt. That star had been the sole witness of my success, and I felt as free as it appeared to be where it lay dreaming deep dreams upon the ancient-and-pure pacific sands. I had come a long, long way for that little star of wonders.
Back at the apartment, I measured my line, discovering that I had broken my personal record by about ten meters, and I had done it solo after a long swim. I was glad that I had been able to use my yogic prayer to move fluidly and confidently in the deeps. Lord of love, you are the dear Friend of all souls. Your actions are all full of grace, a grace which liberates and empowers us. You are the sole power that guides us in the Adventure of Life! In the sea of your sacred presence we abide, all stars.