Save the Humans: The Whales of Baja
I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the Baja Peninsula of Mexico in February with Acupuncturists Without Borders, on a journey that combined acupuncture community service clinics and training with several days of sea kayaking in the Sea of Cortez, and a day with the grey whales in their lagoon nurseries on the Pacific side of the peninsula.
Although I am not an acupuncturist, I was welcomed on this trip and was delighted to discover that many of my fellow travelers were open to animal communication and welcomed my perspective and presence on this journey. I had felt called to travel to Baja for many years, and knew that the opportunity would come for me when the time was right. And this was it!
Although I expected to have wonderful encounters with the amazing animals of the Sea of Cortez and the Baja Peninsula, I was also blessed to make many deep, heart-full connections with the wonderful humans who were part of our group, as well as those who we met in the community.
The Skin of the Earth
As I flew from Los Angeles to Loreto, Mexico, I looked out of the window of our small plane at the mountainous landscape of the Baja Peninsula. Here, desert is juxtaposed with ocean to create one of the most magical places on earth.
I began to feel the familiar excitement and pull in my heart that I often experience when I’m getting close to my beloved whale friends. The Sea of Cortez is home to one-third of all cetacean species in the world, in addition to many other species of animals who make their home in this amazingly lush wildlife habitat.
We feel the fabric of the earth…the skin of the earth. We unite with it as with our own skin, our own flesh. Our skin and the skin of the earth are the same. We are one. We can teach you to feel this too. The cells of the water are the cells of our bodies. The flesh of the earth is the flesh of our bodies. Your skin and our skin. Your flesh and our flesh. The earth. The water. We can feel it all together as we are all one being. One breath. One life. One love.
We have called you here to transmit our message, our wisdom, our understanding. We are ambassadors to the human world and you are our translator. Many of us come here to be in the sacred waters, and also to heal these waters. The water and energy from these waters spreads to all of the waters of the earth. It is a sacred center, a hub, a bindi point of the earth. What happens here transmits to the entire planet. We are deeply aware of this.
The terrestrial landscape reflects the solar and aquatic landscape, and also the waves and flares and molecules and cells of our bodies. Here in this sacred vortex of the earth the inside and outside of our bodies unite and become one with the inside and outside of the earth.
We will teach you. We have called you here. There is a great confluence in these waters of our bodies and consciousness, of energy, of power, of life and rebirth. The earth is healing. We are being healed. The destruction of many parts of the earth is only the top surface layer–there is a much deeper layer of regeneration, rebirth, and renewal. We have much to teach you.
We welcome you the these waters which are the sacred mother, the womb of this planet.
As I finished pecking out this communication on my phone, I looked out the window again….we were circling in over the islands and approaching our landing at the small Loreto airport…and as I looked down into the ocean water, I saw two small outlines of forms in the water…was it…were they…YES! as I saw the unmistakable spray of a whale blow. I had come home.
After a few days in the beautiful beach town of Loreto, where I was able to participate in the Acupuncturists Without Borders volunteer training and observe a community clinic at the local health center, we set off for our five nights and six days of kayaking in the Sea of Cortez, camping on the islands each night.
We camped the first night at a beach where local herbalist and healer, Maya Serena, has a palapa home. Maya, an American, has lived and worked in Loreto full time for several years. As Maya took our group on a plant walk, teaching us about the medicinal properties of many of the native desert plants, I realized that she was a kindred spirit, communicating telepathically with the plants about their spiritual and physical healing properties, and encouraging the members of our group to listen intuitively to the plants for their wisdom.
Maya’s palapa, protected by the Virgin of Guadalupe, is a beautiful sacred shrine to the Divine Feminine. I felt its power immediately as I approached it, and could feel the anchoring of this energy extending far beyond the shoreline into the great waters of the Sea of Cortez.
Another kindred spirit was our kayak guide, Ginni Callahan, of Sea Kayak Baja Mexico, Ginni has worked and guided in Baja for many years, and has had many deep and profound experiences with the whales and other animals of the Baja. Her awareness, broad naturalist knowledge, and beautiful open-hearted spirit created a wonderful space for our group.
As we woke the first morning on Maya’s beach, whales breached in the distance…and as we set out in our kayaks for the day, we were greeted by the joyful dancing of the Mobula rays:
We were surrounded by dolphins at our island campsite on the next nights of our journey. The first morning as we were doing our yoga and meditation practice, led by my friend Anne Dellenbaugh (with whom I’m co-facilitating a special women’s retreat in September on the Green River, Utah): the dolphins swam very close to shore…and then a few moments later, circled back again…and then again…and then again, leaping and playing. When I communicated with them, they said how much they loved being in the gentle, quiet energy of our group, and how they felt us from far out in the water and came close to be with us and check us out.
Each day from then on, we were greeted by dolphins most mornings and evenings. They often swam very close to our campsite and made several passes past us. Our guide, Ginni, said it that it was an unusually high frequency of dolphin visits based on her many years of experience guiding trips in the Sea of Cortez. I was not surprised…the dolphins and whales love to be with people who are conscious, appreciative, and open-hearted.
We were also blessed by an abundance of other wildlife of all types: brown pelicans, seagulls, osprey, beautiful fish as we snorkeled, sea lions, sea turtles, and whales. Each night as I slept on the beach, I would fall asleep and wake up to the breathing and blowing of the whales out in the bay. As the wind died down and the night became quiet, the whales’ breathing filled me with comfort and peace.
The Grey Whales: Ambassadors of Interspecies Forgiveness
On the last day of our journey, we traveled over the mountains to the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula. Here, in protected lagoons all up and down the coast, the grey whales come to have their young. The grey whales of Baja are known for their close and extended interactions with humans.
The Pacific lagoons of Baja were once the scene of some of the most brutal episodes in the long history of human predation on whales. The whaling boats would trap the whales in the lagoons as they came to give birth, killing the young. Stories of enraged and grieving mother whales hurling themselves at the boats and breaking them in two were common. Eventually, the whaling ended in these waters, and the grey whales continued to migrate here to have their young.
One day in the 1970’s, a local fisherman was out in the lagoon when a mother grey whale approached his boat. She came close, and then lifted her baby up to him, close enough that he could reach out and touch the young whale. Since this time, generations of mothers and baby whales have invited and welcomed interaction with humans in the lagoons all up and down the Baja coast. Some of the adults still bear harpoon scars. They circle close to the pangas (small fishing boats), and they often invite and welcome human play and touch, coming back over and over again.
(For a detailed description of the history of grey whale interactions in the lagoons, see this New York Times article, Watching Whales Watching Us.)
As we traveled toward the lagoons, I felt the magnitude of of the work that the grey whales are doing with humans–as I said to our group, “it’s their healing clinic for us.” However, I was unprepared for the depth and beauty of what we experienced. As many times as I have been with the whales, I am always moved beyond any words by their benevolence, their kindness, and their love.
When we got into the boats and out into the lagoon, we were surrounded by whales. Everywhere we turned, in any direction, there were whales. I felt the awareness and sensitivity of our panga driver as we came close to the whales…and they remained close to us, coming up and spy-hopping within a few feet of our small boat, bringing their calves alongside, circling again and again to be near the people and the boats, rather than swimming away.
I noticed that the boats that had children on them got special attention from the whales. At one point, I thought, “wow, that’s an awful lot of boats and people close to these whales…how will they respond?” The whales answered my question by coming even closer into the waters between the boats. A baby whale circled and jumped again and again near a boat with a delighted, laughing, screaming child. I could hear the baby whale communicating with his mother:
It’s a baby human! Can I play with him?
And as his mother gave her blessing, he came near the boat with the child again and again with pure delight and joy.
My eyes filled with tears as I felt these magnificent whales and their loving, joyful, playful, compassionate outreach to humans. I always feel that I am home with my closest family when I am with the whales…but the magnitude of the gifts that these whales are giving our species left me without words for most of the remainder of the day.
These whales have full consciousness and awareness of their history with humans in both their individual and collective memory. And they have chosen to forgive us. They choose to be with us, to come close to us, to play with us. They gently move their bodies away if they are so close that they might harm us. They offer us their young, their bodies to be touched, with nothing but love and joy as their motivation. They don’t have to do this. They’re not being “fed”, coerced, or manipulated. They simply come with openness and love to be our teachers, our leaders on the path of love, forgiveness, and healing. They come close to us with the recognition that we share the same planet, that we share the same hearts, and that there is more that unites us than that separates us.
I looked deep into my own heart at the places where I hold resentment and haven’t completely forgiven others. I felt the places where I have not loved and forgiven myself. And these places within me softened and opened as I felt the great example of the whales, offering forgiveness and love to a species that has often been so unconscious and cruel to them. They recognize us as individuals, and they also choose to stay with us, to come close to us. to help our species evolve.
We often talk about “Saving the Whales”–but the truth is, the whales are saving us.
The whales teach us that there is no power in the world greater than love. That forgiveness heals…and that creating lasting change in our world starts with something that is both so simple and so powerful: connecting with each other, past the differences, wounds, and history that separates us, through what we have in common: our open hearts, our love of our young, our desire to live a happy, free, joyous life.
My life has been changed by my time in Baja…I know that I will return. I take the message of the whales with me in my daily life–imperfectly loving, imperfectly forgiving, but continuing to try, as best I can, to live as they do: with an open heart filled with joy and love.
Love is the only path, love is the only god, and love is the only scripture.—Swami Kripalu