December 22, 2010

Everything You Need to Learn You Learn From The Ocean

There was a time when every vacation my wife and I planned revolved around Scuba Diving. Costa Rica, Mozambique, Mauritius, Thailand, Malaysia, and Hawaii. Yes, I have even dived in Lake Malawi. Although, I have logged nearly fifty dives and have my advanced license, I would never say I am an expert diver. I began diving as a way to face my fear of the ocean and claustrophobia, but years later, every time I don the regulator and sink into the big blue deep, there is still a part of me that is terrified. Beyond the ecstatic feeling of neutral buoyancy, the discovery of breathtaking marine ecosystems, and the feeling of perfect Zen meditation it is the fear that brings me back to diving.

I have not been in the water since my daughter Kaia was born over four years ago, so it was with great pleasure that I was able to look out at Bali to my left and Mt. Ranjani in all her fog capped majesty to my right, as our boat navigated the Gili Islands off the coat of Lombok, where I am lucky enough to be spending my Christmas Break.

image by yeowatzup
In the water, as I sank to about fifty feet and watched the bubbles engulf my body, I began to think about this blog post. Yes it is a sickness I know, but what can I say? My experiences are wrapped in my ability to document them in text and photos and music and video and…..well you get the point. This is not the “diving” post where I regale with fluid prose about the otherworldliness of diving, I am saving that for the book, this is simple a top ten list of things I was thinking about on my last dive as poked and prodded my way around the ocean floor. So there I am kicking along, controlling my breathing, watching my thoughts roll through my head and out my regulator and I thought of this list:

The four things I have learned from Diving:

  1. Not every cause has an immediate effect. Sometimes you may see a big coral outcrop in your way and you take a deep breath to inflate your lungs, so by design, it will lift you effortlessly over the boulder, but before you let the air molecules play with the water molecules, and the ocean molecules play with the you molecules, you are kicking your legs and wasting precious energy and air, where if you had just waited patiently, you would have seen that the breath you took a few seconds ago would have done its job if you had just relaxed and let it. The world needs time to react to your energy, so don’t expect immediate reactions to your every action.
  2. Don’t fight a current. Ever. The Ocean is much bigger than you. If a current is pushing you faster that you want to go and you are afraid that it will push you beyond where you want to be, well tough shit. Deal with it. Swim with it where it takes you and make notes a long the way. It is easier to gather your bearings and sort things out after a current is done with you than to try and fight it. No matter how big or brave you feel, going with the flow is always the right choice, even if you have no idea where you are going. Because fighting it will just get you tired and unable to deal with the end when you get there.
  3. Don’t waste so much time looking into the big blue void looking for the big stuff that you miss the tiny nudibranch right in front of you. While sharks and Manta Rays may be impressive to spot, it is the myriad of tiny creatures making the ocean their home that make life interesting. Just because something is common doesn’t make it less interesting than something that is rare. When seen through the mask of curiosity and awe, even the most clich├ęd clown fish and anemone scene from Nemo can be fun to watch. If you spend the entire dive looking for something rare, you may waste your entire time not seeing anything at all. You are part of a bigger ecosystem; see it as a cycle and as a whole.
  4. Focus on your breathing, but don’t fixate on it. Stay calm and breath. Live in the now, but don’t worry so much about breathing that you miss the ocean around you. No one wants to run out of air on a dive. Just like no one wants to run out of air on a life, but you can’t spend the entire time worrying how much time you have left. It is possible to be overly conscious. You try to stay calm, conserve your energy, and enjoy the ride, but if you see a turtle in the distance, never mind how much air you have; kick yourself over there and take a look.
Thought there were more, but I guess those juicy thoughts were mine alone to deposit onto the ocean floor.

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