I recently checked off a major item on my bucket list, I became a PADI certified Open Water scuba diver. The course was much more difficult than I imagined it to be, I am not sure if it was because the class was run by former military, or if the dive shop was extremely thorough. Regardless, I spent hours in the pool each night, practicing various skills in the frigid water and, for a couple days, I wasn’t sure if the training was going to be worth it.
Then, I dove. I fell in love. I fell into wonder.
Diving is an incredible experience, from the darting movement of the fishes, the brilliance of color, the micro-ecologies of the reef, to the sleepy White Tipped Reef shark snoozing beneath the rocks; the experience was magical to me. Underwater I felt simply content. Diving provides you insight into a world that is literally right beneath the surface, a world that few people get to experience. I felt lucky to be, for a moment, a part of this incredible world that is so much bigger than myself. The ocean has a beautiful way of overwhelming you and making your problems small. You could tell the sea all of your troubles and it would always be big enough to hold them, even if only for a moment.
There are two key rules in diving, the first and foremost is, never hold your breath and the second is, know your limits. There are a lot of precautions you take as a diver, never dive without a buddy, never dive deeper than you are trained for, ect… but these rules are really covered by knowing and adhering to your limits. With the golden rule of breathing pounded into my head, I actually enacted it during my dives. Whenever I felt nervous or scared, I kept on breathing. I felt a small epiphany about 40 feet under the surface: no matter the crisis, always remember to breathe. It hit me that that concept was not only applicable to diving, but to life on dry land. I think of losing my temper, or rushing into a hasty decision, I usually am holding my breath in preemptive anxiety. Diving is teaching me to be measured, no matter the situation, and always to breathe. Breathe in light and breathe out love. As long as I can remember, knowing my limits has never been easy for me. I vacillate between grandiose confidence in my lack of limits, to utter insecurity about what I actually am capable of. The lesson I learned in diving reminded me of how I need to proactively be aware of my limits, maintain healthy ones, and not to unsafely exceed them.
There are various steps you take to ensure your dive is maximized. If you are under-weighted you float towards the surface and struggle to stay even-keeled; if you are over-weighted then you do not use energy efficiently, fight to float and can’t control your body correctly. The trick to having a relaxing dive is to be weighted just right and have just the right amount of air in your buoyancy control device (BCD) so you are neutrally buoyant. Neutral buoyancy is a condition in which your density is equal to the density of the fluid in which you are immersed. On my first dive, I wasn’t weighted properly and I couldn’t efficiently compensate with my BCD, as a result I was having difficultly staying balanced, exerting way more energy than needed to keep from bumping into the coral. I was grumpy and this was not what I was envisioning! The difference between being weighted properly and attaining neutral buoyancy is amazing. On my second dive, I was neutrally buoyant, gently floating along with the current. It was the most amazing feeling, I felt in perfect harmony with my environment, totally at peace. I wasn’t struggling to maintain my balance and I took comfort that I was exactly where I was meant to be.
Looking up, I saw my exhales turn into bubbles of carbon dioxide, rising to the surface. A mirror of my soul, my breaths blew little bubbles of hopes, dreams, fears, and inspiration bouncing through the water, to be refracted through the make up of the universe.
I kept having this idea run through my mind: how can I replicate this Zen state on dry land? What do I need to keep in my life, what extra weight must be added, what must be shed? How can I let go of the negative, the extra baggage, the weight that keeps me down? What can I take on that I hadn’t realized I could? My goal for 2017 is to try to be neutrally buoyant in the universe, to ebb and flow in its gentle embrace.