Focusing on the Now – Another PB!
Photography by Nicolas Largueze
Feeling stiff and unflexible in my 5mm wetsuit, I walked to the edge of the water with monofin in hand. I maneuvered around groups of dazed, snorkeling tourists, and stepped my way through pebbly shallows to the edge of the Blue Hole. As I viewed the windy seascape, my mind lost in the backdrop of the Saudi Arabia mountains, I habitually donned my mask and snorkel. Then glided, arms overhead into the water, and the first thought that came to my head was “This is not going to be fun!”
I could tell right away that I was too lightly weighted. Earlier that morning I added a 1/2 kg to my weightbelt in order to compensate for the extra buoyancy of the 5mm suite versus my usual 3mm which got a hole in it the previous day. But now, floating in the water, exceedingly buoyant, feeling stiff and hot, I knew straight away this training wasn’t going to be very enjoyable.
When I got to the buoy, sweetheart, Nick, was just about finished setting up the line. I swam over to the crossline, attached my monofin and lanyard and soon after began breathing-up for my first warm-up dive.
Pulling myself down the line was, to no surprise, quite difficult – usually I just glide effortlessly down but this time there was no gliding. Another pull, then another, and another, every pull felt like I was being pulled in the opposite direction.
Then, I suddenly remembered back to a session I did months earlier with Andreas Peper. I was face-down in the water, breathing-up through a snorkel for some time, then, when ready, I took a big breath and gave him a signal. With my eyes completely closed and my body completely relaxed, Andreas pushed me slowly down into the sea to about 16 meters and left me there, alone. I didn’t have to do anything, except relax, in the depths of the sea… I stayed there for some time, drifting along to wherever the water wanted me to be, as though I was a piece of seaweed at the mercy of the flow of the universe. Eventually, I opened my eyes, gazing mesmerizingly at the endless sea floor, lined in pure white sand, blue water all around, savoring every second, then, when ready, I slowly and gracefully made my way to the surface. Andreas asked how it was, I replied, “Absolutely amazing!”
Immediately after I was instructed to breathe-up in the same way, but instead of being pushed down, I’d fin down (with bi-fins) along a line. Pretty basic, I’ve done constant weight dives a zillion times, I followed the instructions, breathing-up, duckdiving then finning down. It was almost instantly when I noticed the anxiety, the negative thoughts “when am I gonna get there?” “why am I doing this?” “how much longer?” Strange, none of this was there on the other dive… When I got to the bottom I hurriedly turned and rushed back to the surface.
I informed Andreas of my thoughts, the anxiety and so forth. He looked at me and in a kind and gentile way said “Interesting, it seems that whenever you make a physical effort during your diving, it triggers a bit of anxiety in your mind”. A valid point, a moment of self-realization.
Obviously when I dive, as everyone else diving CWT and FIM, I need to use some physical effort to get down and then back up again, either by pulling on the rope or finning. It seems though, that whenever I use any sort of physical effort, it tends to trigger a bit of anxiety, some dives more than others, in various phases of the dives. This anxiety causes me to tense-up a bit and not be as relaxed, making the overall experience of the dive not as pleasant as it could be.
Also I noticed anxiousness and restlessness, which have me not be fully present in the moment of the dive, because I’m desiring to be ahead someplace instead. For example, on a 50 meter dive, when I’m at 10 meters, I’m wishing I was at 20, at 20 I’m wishing I was at 30, 30 wishing I was at 40, and so on. Of course this isn’t every dive and every moment but it’s often.
And here I was on my first warm-up dive, with my thick 5mm suite, the effort-anxiety effect in full-effect and, being so buoyant, was magnified ten-fold. I needed to use nearly three times the effort than usual to pull down which somewhat tripled my anxiety. I could sense my anxiousness, restlessness and the unpresentness.
I decided to seize the moment, and try to reprogram – try to disconnect the idea of ‘physical effort’ and ‘mental anxiety’. So I instructed my mind to keep 100% present in the moment, 100% present during every second and every meter. Stop wanting to be somewhere that I am not or have yet to be. And instead focus on my technique, focus on the water around, focus on the sensations, focus the experience, focus on the now!
I enjoyed the challenge and shortly after began to ascend. About 10 meters from the surface, I opened my eyes, a camera about two meters in front of me. Nick was taking photos, feelings of love and gratefulness washed over me.
My next two warm-ups after that were pretty easy-going, comparatively. I continued practicing keeping myself present in the moment, dismissing any thoughts that came into my head about needing to be deeper, needing to rush to be someplace I am not yet at. Also, when I felt the “effort” I’d dismiss it and say to myself “no this isn’t effort, it’s just a movement, that’s all, a movement, don’t make it mean more than what it is”
My forth dive was the deepest one. Once again I wasn’t sure how deep I should go, being so lightly weighted, but figured let’s aim for 50-55, “Heck, it’s good training” I thought. So down I went with an alarm set at 50 and another at 55. I don’t remember much of the dive, except my free-fall, when it started I could tell it was unusually slow, but I kept myself present and with my fingers lightly around the line, I finned slightly to increase my speed, relaxing into the increasing speed of the free-fall. Before I knew it my 50 meter alarm sounded, feeling great with a mouth full of air, I continued on to 55, and when I heard the alarm I turned gracefully, enjoying my mermaid ascent back to the surface :)
With all considered the dive felt pretty easy. 55.2 meters, a new PB, another small win and much learned in the process :)