The Lightness of Being

I love these words.  I first spotted them adorning the hull of a beautiful sailboat moored in a Californian harbour.  During that time I was starting to embrace presence as an experience rather than things you receive at Christmas, and these words seemed to encapsulate all I was learning.

Five years on and I’d like to think my relationship with presence has developed and hopefully blossomed.  It’s high up on my list of life priorities and I put in some serious time in New Zealand practicing the art of presence by completing the book and course “The Presence Process”

Presence, and indeed, the lightness of being, comes to me most fluidly, most lucidly and languidly, when I am doing the things I love the most.  Surfing, yoga, eating delicious organic, vegetarian food… Or is it that I love these things because they allow me to feel present.  Whichever way around, it does not matter, for the point is, after travelling, learning, studying, practicing and working in New Zealand for 3 months I decided heading to the Hedonistic epicentre of Indonesia - Bali.

Not for indulgence may I add, for simple pleasures… like surfing, yoga and eating delicious, organic, vegetarian food.  Ok, ok and the odd margherita (I’m not a saint). 

I met up with my Play in Portugal cohort Jenn Moore and her yogi-adventure guide brother Mike, and together we crammed in as much ocean time and yoga classes as possible in between sampling as many different breakfast smoothie bowls and vegan tacos as possible!!

We mastered the art so much it almost became a vocation, a career path!

For 2 days I left Jenn to embark on my own mini adventure.  Fusion Freedive are based in Amed, in the East of the Island and it was here I wanted to go deeper into my connection with presence, via the most fundamental part of our existence: BREATH.  Or holding it, I should say.

Having already dabbled at diving to about 8m on one breath in Jersey, where the temperature was considerably colder and I was weighted with 7mm of neoprene, I was looking forward to a more tropical experience.

There was just me and one other person on the course.   And it was very interesting to witness the difference in our approaches and mindsets.  After the second day we laughed that we were like yin and yang - I was yin; tentative, receptive, more interested in the theory than achieving a goal, less driven, more open to learning and needed to be pushed in order to reach the depth of 10m for the level 1 certificate.  

What I discovered about myself through the course is that my mind often puts out negative projections - “I can’t!!”   This was probably the most liberating part, witnessing myself holding back, backing off and having to dive again and again to become comfortable with my limits.  But I was doing it, each time I would smash through a mental barrier by reaching the depth intended, soon reality shifted because - "I can".

Having to take my mask off at 10m turned into my nemesis.  I just couldn't get past it.  Bubbles in my face, a shock from air to water, I found it really difficult.  We were running out of time and the Instructor looked at me and said “Nat, you’re just going to have to commit to doing it, know that it’s going to be uncomfortable, know that you will struggle but try to relax and know that you can do it.”

That pep talk got me through.

What I learnt about humans, was just how incredible our bodies are and how when we enter the water we are reconnected to our aquatic roots.  Just by feeling water on our faces lowers our heartrate and our bodies immediately respond by conserving oxygen, taking it from our limbs and towards our hearts, lungs and brains.  The mammalian dive reflex - a response that is often left unexplored in individuals but something we can all tap into should we desire to dive deep.

Listen to James Nestor talk about his journey into freediving, and includes encountering sperm whales, the greatest freedivers of all. 

I feel the connection between yoga and freediving oh so deeply.  Brittany Trubridge puts it into words so well:

When we hold our air in (Antar Kumbhaka), such as in a freedive, we become closed circuits of energy. As we descend the blood shifts away from the extremities and poles of the body and moves towards the heart and lungs to preserve the royal organs. As this happens, we find ourselves engaging in full pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), inducing a deep meditative state where our thoughts begin to cease and we fall into what is the definition of yoga: “Yogas chitta-vritti-nirodhah” – “Yoga is the cessation of the activities of the mind.” 

During the last afternoon on the course we watched triumphant freediving videos that that blew my mind.  Here is Alan Watts talking about humanness and consciousness, with some seriously spectacular freediving.  This is what I want to spend some of my life doing!  Immersing myself in the oceans and hanging out with whales!

Feeling like something had shifted in me, I headed back to Canggu to allow things to settle and enjoy more waves, yoga and yummy food!  

I was awaiting my Indian tourist visa… my flight booked and departure in 2 days, I needed this ASAP.  Already it was 3 days late.  Time to put into practice what I had learnt.  Pressure.  Worries. Negative thoughts.  Like clockwork they arrived.  Breathe.  Everything was ok.  The situation was out of my control.  Breathe.  And repeat.  And go play.  It was not a case of forgetting, more like a surrendering.  The situation was out of my control.  The only thing I could do was breathe, go play and be present.  So those last few days in Bali were maximized and right at the very last minute, the morning before my flight, my visa came through.  There was no sigh of relief, because I had not sunk into panic and worries, just a chance to breathe, be present and emit some gratitude for it all working out. 
Bali taught me a lot this time around, it was here I found gratitude for playtime, allowed time to face my fears and mental barriers and experienced a unique opportunity to appreciate the lightness of being, under the ocean.