Mind in Apnea
This is where it all began for me. A great friend of mine started freediving and like many beginners of this sport he was a very passionate apneaist. One day he said to me, you would love freediving and with your background in meditation you would be good. He was right of course, I have always loved snorkeling true, brought up in Malta, always with a small boat in the family the sea was natural to me. I had just returned from a 3 year meditation trip in India, so naturally I had to give it a try.
Meditation, a general idea
From what I have experienced in meditation I can say that consciously following the breath is the easiest and most effective way to get into the meditative zone. Leave your mind behind, come back to the here and now in the most natural way, by focusing on something that is happening inside you. When you are living through that zone everything you do is graceful. No visualization or mantra (repeating a word or words) is necessary although they may be useful. All you need to do is breathe consciously, focus your entire awareness on the incoming and outgoing of the breath, as if it where the most important thing in all creation! It may very well be. It may be hard in the beginning for the simple fact that we have conditioned ourselves differently. However human beings are quick to adapt and form new thinking patterns, meditation will soon become 1st nature if you practice well and regularly.
So here is a simple exercise: Find a pleasant space, it could easily be your own bed or outside under the shade of a tree. Sit down mindfully and sit just to sit and breathe, that’s all you have to do. Focus and concentrate only on the present, sitting and breathing. Let your thoughts disappear as you focus on your breath, just sit and follow your breath. As you inhale you become aware of nothing else but the total inhale, as you exhale your mind becomes totally absorbed in following the air as it leaves your body. During meditation thoughts will naturally enter your stream of consciousness, just simply return to the subtle awareness of breathing, by first acknowledging that you are thinking and return the task at hand. Thinking can come later.
Strange as it may seem, I have found that we are not really designed to multi-task or maybe better said, we do things better when we dont. This simple exercise works on this premise, when we focus on our natural occurring breath (something we can do anywhere at anytime) our minds become quiet. The more one focuses, the more silent the mind becomes. Thoughts tend to have larger gaps between them, during the absence of thought one become more present, deep into what is happening in this very moment. The more we focus on the breath, the less thoughts pass through our minds. Why? Because we are accustomed to give attention to thinking and attention is limited. So when we give that same attention to our breathing and become subtly more aware of it, thoughts subside and a different kind of knowing takes hold of us. This is what I mean when I say, meditative zone.
How is this useful in freediving?
To begin with, being more aware of your breathe on a day-to-day basis increases our understanding of correct breathing. For example long exhales promotes relaxation, so if you need to relax and slow down before a dive, you can simply exhale long and relaxed. Or if you are feeling stressed at work, it will work also; automatic de-stresser . Become aware of breathing and you can use it like a tool to promote health and let go of negative thought patterns. You must be asking, but In freediving the breath is held, so how does it work if you are no longer breathing? The principle remains the same, just watch what is happening to your body rather than your thoughts and you enter the meditative zone. Zen and the art of freediving!
In the meditative zone there are no goals, time stops and everything that is, simply is, in the east they call this Suchness. It is normal of course that we think during the dive, you need to in order to decide to go back up or down , but thinking is best kept at a minimum as that too consumes oxygen. Furthermore negative or fearful thoughts will make you anxious and increase your heartbeat, that’s why meditation helps. Some divers use visualization to relax or repeat a mantra like, Relax, relax, why not? I personally prefer to listen to my heartbeat, sometimes on the decent I close my eyes and feel the complete stillness within. This is one of the main reasons why I love freediving, it seems easy to enter this zone when I dive, i’m sure you will experience it too!