Freediving, free–diving, free diving or skin diving is a form of underwater diving that relies on divers’ ability to hold their breath until resurfacing, rather than on the use of a breathing apparatus such as scuba gear. – Wikipedia
I used to love freediving. I would freedive for hours for no other purpose than to be with myself, my heartbeat, my body, my mind, and, as I realise now, with my I exist. Sure it had other additional benefits – sometimes I would spear fish, untangle snagged boat anchors or retrieve dropped items from the ocean floor – but ultimately I did it for the space it provided to experience myself.
I would lie floating on the surface in preparation, with my entire body relaxed and rippling gently in the currents around me. Relaxed muscles take up and store oxygen better. I would breathe deeply and slowly, until I would feel my heart rate slow as I relaxed deeper and deeper. Relaxed bodies consume less oxygen. Then I would inhale and exhale rapidly, to flood my cells with as much oxygen as possible, before taking the big breath I would hold for the dive.
On the descent, there would be the striving to go ever deeper; the firm, quiet sense of purpose. Then there would be the bittersweet turning point, where I knew I’d reached my limit. My downward momentum would glide to a halt as the unavoidable buoyancy of my body took hold and inevitably brought me back to the surface, slowly at first then gathering speed the closer I got. There would be regretful surrender upon the ascent, as I would always want to remain down there longer, but was also an awareness that my body was screaming for oxygen. Sweet oxygen.
I was compelled to do this again and again, for one reason: the particular fraction of a second that occurred at the deepest point of my dive. The tiny sliver of time between when my body decelerated from its downward motion and when buoyancy took over, sucking me back to the surface, always had me knowing I would be diving down again even before I reached the surface. For, in that precious fraction of a second, I was between dimensions; weightless, timeless, free from gravity itself and all the other constraints of being human. The density of the water around me was simultaneously silent and deafening. I was alone, in pure beautiful awareness, feeling the play of mass, friction, force, resistance and pressure weighing in from all directions, as well as weightlessness, freedom and grace, all coming together for a fraction of a second in a kind of dance that needed no music at all.
It would feel like I was suspended in glass, paused in a cross section of water, completely suspended and supported, somewhere halfway between here and there; beyond time and space, and even beyond life and death itself; suspended between my human life on the surface, and my unknown depths that I was so driven to reach. And the ironic parable is that I reached this magic place only when I stopped my downward drive, relaxed and let go.
However, that moment of being suspended in glass was always heartbreakingly brief. What I wouldn’t have done to remain there in weightless freedom just a fraction longer. What I wouldn’t have done to not need to breathe at all.
Maybe being in the ocean is like being a human in this 3D life. Maybe freediving is like awakening. Maybe resurfacing after the dive is like enlightenment. In the beginning, just being in the ocean is a fight to stay afloat, the bizarre struggle that most humans are involved in, when instead they could just relax and let themselves float rippling gently on the surface. Then, if you are one who is compelled to dive deeper, you pull yourself ever downward, deeper and deeper still, equalising and efforting, driven onward by some strange goal. Only finally to relax at the absolute deepest point you can reach by force, and let go, giving in to the natural force that draws you back up to the good old surface from where you started; slowly at first, then gathering speed the closer you get, bursting out back into loud, bright, harsh reality once more. Reality with all its grit and flaws, that once upon a time I had wanted to escape, but now, with the new perspective found at the depths of the dive, I love it so fiercely it that I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
Recently, as I was just being in my I AM, I got the sense of myself as an untapped well. An ‘untapped’ well is where groundwater just flows effortlessly from deep within the earth. I let go, and let this untapped well of my own self flood my whole world, until my world became a sea and I was suspended within it. I’ve always felt at home in the water and this type of sea is the sweetest experience of all, as it is a vast ocean of me. Maybe all those years of freediving brought me to this point where I can happily, willingly, drown in my own sea.
With myself, now, as the untapped well flooding my own life, it seems I don’t even need a ‘real’ ocean to go freediving anymore. I can be suspended in the weightless freedom of my I exist anytime I wish, while breathing in that sweet oxygen simultaneously. And the exquisite thing is, rather than the heartbreaking fraction of a second I used to get with freediving in a real ocean, I can stay in that magic place a lot longer. Forever, if I choose.
Verla Ell Rey is the author of The Age of Self: The Self as the Final Frontier, available as a digital download on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Scribd, Kobo, and other digital book retailers. She can be reached at verlaellrey.com