"Watch your step!" warns the sign. I quickly scan the sign and skip down the Stoney stairs to the beach below. Watch my step? I don't need to; it just happens. I mastered placing my feet on the ground in a rhythmic motion years ago!
Most of the skills our mind and body do are automatic "doing mode", the brain's muscle memory recognize past events and says, "we've done this before, no problem".
This is great for learning, problem-solving, planning, getting things done, bridging the gap between the future possibilities, and most modern worlds predominantly live this way.
The term consciousness is thrown about a lot these days, but it's simply to be aware of one's thoughts, having more metacognition.
Try it now for one minute with your eyes closed. Notice how many random thoughts pop up.
This internal chitter-chatter plays out continuously whilst your brain takes in information from the world around you and decides if it's relevant or not.
I bet most of the internal dialogue is not helpful or kind. Our thoughts and emotions are tied up with memories and past experiences. The brain decides what label to add and where to store these memories in our internal hard drive (our squishy brains).
This stored memory could save your life in the future, or it could add extra anxiety to your life one day for no real reason.
If you could be aware and be present now, there would be no future expectations and past thoughts to be judged by. How appealing does that sound!
Mindful awareness or mindfulness arises out of this being mode when we learn to pay kindly attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without harsh judgment, to things as they are.
Well, quite a lot, the brain loves certainty. To be able to guess the outcome, it makes decisions based on past experiences.
But mostly, the brain and body's number one job is to keep you alive!
Learning any new adventurous skill, but especially freediving, will add anxiety and stress to the system:
You are depriving your body of oxygen + Venturing into the unknown = stress & anxiety!
Learning to be more mindful and focusing on a present sensation can help stop negative thoughts in their path. I have personally found this very beneficial at the start of my deeper dives and other scenarios when I've needed more self-confidence.
Having greater awareness of your body and your bodily sensations or emotions can give you more significant intuition into your thoughts, the feelings attached and how to respond to them.
But most importantly, as soon as you become aware of muscle tension, the muscle instantly reacts by relaxing. Likewise, the mind also equals more pleasant thoughts when your body is free from stress.
Being mindful of how you move and the mechanics of movement strengthens the connection between the brain and body, which means you will move more efficiently. Whilst freediving, bodily awareness is so important, skills such as bi-finning and equalization cannot be mastered until awareness is felt.
Being mindful is meditation, and is a skill to be practised, to live healthy, happy lives, we need to find the right balance between the doing mode and the being mode.
I often joke with my students, "It's not about the destination but the journey" (imagine spoken with a very calm spiritual healer type voice!)
But I'm referring to the rope we dive down. The quote is super cheesy, but it's true.
We will be exploring this journey during our upcoming freediving retreats in the coming year: mindful freediving, movement, meditation, and breath-training.
In the meantime, you can start by using the breath as an anchor, setting your alarm for 5mins, finding a quiet spot to sit or lay down and getting comfortable.
Gently follow your breath without controlling your breathing. Just observe the flow of air through the nose into the lungs, feel the soft expansion of your chest, notice where the air goes, how it feels. If your thoughts wander, say hello to them and return your focus to the breath. Easy.
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