Resist the urge to breathe. And try that for a couple of minutes.
I can hear you thinking, why would you?
The thought of not being able to breathe would likely send some of us straight into a panic attack. And frankly, that was a little what I was expecting as I was driving up to Amed for the level 1 freediving course that we went on last weekend. But it turns out, not breathing, at least for some time is an option that will not send you straight up to the gates of heaven.
Freediving is a form of underwater diving that relies on your ability to hold your breath until resurfacing rather than using any scuba gear. The urge to breathe is probably one of the the most natural instincts that you have. It’s something you don’t think about, you just do it. Your survival depends on it. Yet here is a group of people, who seem relatively sane (more or less…), who are practicing not breathing and diving to great depths of the ocean.
What I learned and what attracted me most was that free diving, more than anything else, is an inner journey to yourself, and how capable you are of controlling the mind. The urge to breathe under water doesn’t actually come from a lack of oxygen, but rather an increase in carbon dioxide. What in fact happens is that your body sends you a signal (breathe!) but in fact, you still have enough oxygen. The trick therefore is to learn to feel the signal that your body is sending you, yet not to listen to it.
It really reminded me of meditation, where you learn to observe the mind yet not to attach to any of the many thoughts that come by. Once you can observe yourself, then you can learn to take control of your thoughts and actions, which really has a huge impact on how you feel as our thoughts about something lead us to experience life in a particular way.
Now granted, this is all easier said than done sometimes, especially when you’re under water and your body is telling you to go up for air. So how do you move beyond that and stay under?
All change, whether that’s doing new things, being in a new environment or learning new behaviour, comes with a certain level of discomfort. If we don’t learn to move through that discomfort, we literally get stuck in our comfort zone doing the same thing we’ve always done. We don’t learn, we don’t change, we don’t grow. No fun.
So how do you get comfortable with being uncomfortable and stretch out of your comfort zone so you can learn and do new things?
- Get informed: Before we ever got to the water, we had a lot of theory around freediving and what’s happening with your body under water. Learning what to expect and knowing that your body is not screaming for oxygen, allowed me to feel the discomfort (yep, that doesn’t change!) but interpret it differently. It allowed me to observe what was going on with my body, and move on without immediately thinking “shit, I need air, I’m going to die”. Want to do something new? Get informed and learn as much as you can. To the extent it’s possible, knowing what lies ahead will help you navigate some of the discomfort you will likely feel. And be ok with not knowing everything, and allow room for adventure.
- Get prepared: Before you go under, you put on all the right gear so you can stay under water comfortably and physically prepare by doing slow diaphragmatic breathing for a couple of minutes (or like I prefer to call it, the big old belly breath) to maximize your oxygen levels, quieten the mind and get your heart rate down. Making sure you’ve got the essentials you need before you start your new adventure is key in making the process easier.
- Take control of your mind: Those moments when you actually do suddenly think “no air!”, you can gently speak to yourself and tell yourself whatever it is you need to hear – basically a “you’re ok, you have enough oxygen” or whatever mantra that helps you stay calm works. Knowing what’s really going on, helps you to take control. If you’re challenging yourself to something new, knowing that it may feel uncomfortable at first, will help you to move forward. Our thoughts about an event influence our feelings. If you can learn to control your thoughts (and yes, it’s absolutely possible), you learn to control your experience. If you’re feeling uncomfortable about doing something new, knowing that doing things for the first time often feels awkward, helps you to persist. And before you know it, there you go, you’ve gone beyond your comfort zone and done something new.
That’s it for today again love, if you do get the chance to go freediving – do it! Go check out Fusion Freediving in Amed. Unfortunately, I couldn’t complete the course as I was having a lot of trouble equalizing under water, but am determined to give it another shot. So if you’re keen, shout!
Hope you’re having a beautiful week, and I hope you’re feeling just that little uncomfortable… because then I know you’re stretching that comfort zone!
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Lots of love,