Freedom and Freediving in the Solomon Islands

Wikipedia describes the state of flow, also known as the zone, as the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
In essence, flow is characterised by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.

The word Eutierria (ia: belonging to, Greek), means to belong to the good earth. Author of Invisible Nature, and university research associate Kenneth Worthy, Ph.D. understands the term to mean ‘secular experiences that echo the “oceanic” feeling identified in various world religious traditions.’ He states that when it occurs, your perception of the boundaries between yourself and all else—the thoughts and feelings setting you off from the rest of the cosmos—seem to evaporate. The distinction between you and nature
(or in the religious versions nature and God) breaks down. You become one with the universe.

Two similar definitions that encompass many aspects of ‘flow’ and what I believe, above all else, Freediving to be.

I’ve spent much of my life in or on the water. In fact, most of my early thinking and leisure time, my sense of self and sense of purpose was shaped during the time my head was under water. While many teenage girls had their heads in books and their eyes on boys; my teenage eyes followed the black T along the bottom of the pool. Day by day, hour by hour, a 15 year old girl etched closer to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Trials.

Writing this now, as a 33 year old woman who has just discovered the art of Freediving, takes me back to that childhood state of flow. The quiet slide away from a world and all its chaos, responsibility and stress. A state that many of us ironically spend much of our adult lives trying to re-find. Sometimes, thankfully – it finds us. Whatever it may be.

It’s really no wonder that the connection between Yoga and Freediving has been strengthened in recent years. Retreats are popping up everywhere as the distinct benefits of slowing down and living from the inside out, backed by centuries of research and observations around people and water are finally being acknowledged by the Western world and dubbed by some as if emerging from a disconnectedness as ‘switching on’.

We all have a place where we feel flow, or at least, a place where we feel happiest, where space and time are lost. For as far back as I can remember, I have been affiliated with the water. It’s been my confidant, my saviour in stressful times, and my friend. It doesn’t judge and it doesn’t question. These combined factors have made my discovery of Freediving all the more immersive in feeling. A feeling I wish to continue, hone and perfect.

My recent holiday in the Solomon Islands was my first foray into the world of single breath diving. I left after a blissful week in Munda with SSI certifications in both Freediving and Scuba. I contacted Belinda at Dive Munda just weeks out from my arrival, deciding that whilst resting and preparing myself for 2018, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to spend the vast majority of my time in what is by all means, a waterbaby’s playground. Not only did she accommodate my indecisive back and forths about giving Freediving a shot, but she talked me round to combining the Freediving course with that of the Try Scuba programme; a package Dive Munda hadn’t yet tried themselves. I was now ready to jump online, prepare myself with the theory and then arrive in tropical (bring the aeroguard) paradise.

Having a candid conversation with a technical diver during my time in Munda, and listening to some of the adventures that happen below 140m helped me to understand not just the beauty and emotional connection to what is a truly free feeling, but the responsibility that comes with the luxury to dive. Be that Freediving or Scuba.

The importance of equalising. The importance of understanding your limits. The importance of immersing yourself in the workings of the human body versus the makeup of the ocean. The physics. The realities.

And boy did the team at Dive Munda get me up to speed!
I hit a steep learning curve.

During my time with Belinda, I was coached from a 38 second breath hold to that of 2min 30 seconds in the space of a day. We used relaxation breathing techniques on the shore and then applied them in the water. I learnt of the diving reflex, also known as the mammalian diving reflex, which acts as a response to immersion in water. It optimises respiration by preferentially distributing oxygen stores to the heart and brain which allows staying underwater for extended periods of time possible. It’s found in water mammals – and its found in us.

My understanding of how the breath and the body works when exposed to water, became invaluable for both my safety and my enjoyment. I truly believe that you can only fully enjoy something to the extent of your understanding for it. A very smart woman once told me, make sure you know all the rules before you go about breaking them.

Despite the sometimes very real threats posed by the ocean, there is something very pure and simple about Freediving. Aside from the obvious (like being without man made pieces such as the scuba tank), but rather, a sort of unspoken relationship where you acknowledge each others shortcomings. Ours, in being mere visitors to a barely discovered, foreign world and theirs, in granting us permission to visit, in the hope that we become guardians of the ocean, that we’re able to strip away our egos in the recognition of their role in the creation and continuing of life.

Our life.
Make no mistake about it, it’s not our world and they’re not our oceans.

Freedivers, from what I have seen; have a deep connection in our responsibilities to protect the ocean. Freediving is as much like yoga as any sport, causing a sensation of one-ness with self and the environment which carries you.
The activity demands a high level of respect for the water. I had a swimming coach in my early years describe the water as “your friend”; be gentle, be kind and relax into your technique. I see that this is the same method for ensuring a successful freedive. Don’t fear, don’t panic. Be at one with the ocean and treat it like a living, breathing – best friend. The producers of Disney film Moana even went to painstaking means to understand the ocean enough to portray it as its own character. Treat it as such and never forget its power.

Salt water in particular has been so intrinsically linked to our health that historically, doctors would recommend their patients go to the seaside to improve various illnesses. They would issue prescriptions detailing the length, the duration of, and under what conditions their patients were to be in the water.

In more recent times, Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols brought together evidence for why people find themselves in a meditative and relaxed state when they are in, on or under water in his 2014 book Blue Mind.

Ocean ambassador Lucas Handley describes his affiliation with nature in a broader, community-lead sense on his site, quoting ….. “Incarcerated by concrete and technology, mocked by the demands of a life spent working; it’s all too easy to lose sight of what makes us human. The ability to run free, connect with the wild, hunt our food, rely on our senses, move with the seasons and develop community connections has all but disappeared. But that life is still here, if you choose to find it.”

Whatever activity you choose to do in the water, be it swimming, surfing, scuba diving or freediving, do it with a feeling of gratitude and education.

As for me? you know where to find me….

Freediving

 

Anne x

Follow my adventures on Instagram handle @my.waterworld

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