Many non-divers think of scuba diving as an extreme sport. Just mention that you’re a diver and watch non-diver’s eyes stretch wide. They may ask if your health insurance covers the extremely dangerous activity you’re participating in. As scuba has gained popularity, though, more dollars have gone into safety research. It’s now even safer and accessible to almost anyone. Diving is not only a sport but also a unique sensory experience. The sensory immersion of scuba diving means that many of us think of scuba diving as meditation. Connecting a diver with his or her breath provides a way to journey into oneself.
The touch that sets you free
Divers all know that underwater world is a touch-free zone. But while we’re underwater we’re actually touching and being touched by water the entire time. Few things equal the sensory experience of feeling the water moving against your bare skin, although we do spend much of our time underwater in wetsuits. But the nature of the water’s touch holds us suspended weightless in the water, allowing us to move in ways that we cannot on land. This leads to a feeling of absolute freedom.
Entering into this space is almost like entering a bubble where the focus point becomes you and your body in relation to the world around you. Once their focus moves from their equipment and skill practice, experienced divers become more spatially aware based on signals from their body. For example, they may notice the difference in depth of a few feet or a meter based on how their ears or buoyancy reacts. They begin to control their buoyancy, as well as slight depth changes, by controlling the volume of air in their lungs. ***Dive tip: you can keep the air volume in your lungs fairly constant for short amounts of time by breathing with your diaphragm.
All you need is the air that you breathe
Diving elicits other feelings besides that of being free. Because we cannot verbally communicate underwater, diving also often creates a sense of stillness. With the sounds and distractions of the world topside drowned out, you become more aware of the unique sounds of the ocean: waves breaking, shells tumbling against each other, a boat in the distance, fish feeding… and most of all, your own breathing.
Diving requires you to pay attention to your breath to maintain your buoyancy. Doing so can also help you identify when you are overexerting yourself or entering into an uncomfortable situation that might escalate. If you think about the advice instructors give for these situations — Stop. Breathe. Act. — it becomes clear that breath-control is important in diving
By paying attention and listening to your breathing, as noting the physical sensations of the water surrounding you, you enter a kind of meditative state. While diving you become more and more aware of the present moment and how you interact with the world around you. External demands fall away and all you must do is focus on the moment. This meditative state can last once you’re back on the boat as well, leaving you calm and relaxed.
This meditative effect has led some to call diving and being submerged in water as a “therapeutic landscape,” where reconnection with self and healing can take place.
And who knows, perhaps in time, insurance companies will offer divers a discount for the health benefit of diving. Until then, we can all remember to just breathe.