Finding Inner Peace Twenty-Five Meters Down
When freediving, all you have is one breath; the choice of what to do with it is yours. When you dive below the surface, you become part of the ocean in a new way – free to go wherever you please. Gliding above the sand, swimming alongside a school of fish, and hearing the faint clicks and whistles of nearby dolphins, you are immersed into an intricate ecosystem of simultaneous sound and silence. You are absolutely one with the ocean.
This underwater silence brings up an obstacle: the incessant chatter of the mind. As your awareness becomes heightened in this environment, you can easily be distracted by fleeting thoughts that take you away from the sea. Finding your own way to silence those distractions is the key to true freediving.
As you dive deeper, freediving brings it all to the surface. You are forced to confront fears and find contentment in the present moment. Similarly to surfing, you perform best when staying in the present moment. As any surfer knows, panicking underwater just takes up air you can’t afford to lose. Staying calm while running out of oxygen is a challenge in itself, but finding a state of peaceful exhilaration brings you to a new level of conscious elevation. This one-of-a-kind calming feeling that freediving brings makes it incomparable to other water sports and a hobby that can easily become a passion.
Whether you want to spearfish longer, dive deeper, or meander through that one underwater cave that’s just too long, freedivers are faced with the ever-consuming question: How do you make your breath hold longer? As your oxygen depletes, your lungs will beg for air and your throat may constrict. But fifty percent of freediving is about mentality. Part of this process is learning to sit, or rather swim, through the discomfort of a demanding body.
Through my own journey of extending my breath hold, I’ve found that nothing does the trick quite like calming your heart rate before a dive. While floating at the surface I take three very deep breaths, and dive on the fourth. I dive on the fourth breath every single time. This puts my body into a routine so it knows what is coming next. I’ve found this strategy is more effective than doing consistent cardio.
Freediving is often labeled as one of the most dangerous sports. Divers should never drop down without a buddy. Shallow water blackouts can occur from pushing limits too far. Some recommend hyperventilating before dropping, a practice often called “breath ups,” but this dangerous strategy increases your chance of shallow water blackouts significantly and should never be used to extend time underwater. Gambling with oxygen levels is not a joke.
But that’s the thing with human nature – some of us crave these experiences. We chase monster waves over shallow reefs, jump out of planes with parachutes we hope will open, and climb soaring rock faces without ropes. So what causes us to push our mental and physiological limits so far? Call it what you will: meditation, elevation of consciousness, or being in a present state of ecstasy. One thing is for certain: when you’re running out of breath, you’ve never felt more alive.