Scuba Meditation?

I remember being in Pondicherry many many years ago, way before I started yoga or diving.  As a tourist, I walked into an ashram and the first thing I saw was a massive aquarium with a chair in front of it and a sign that said “meditation.” One of the people who worked there explained that they sometimes use the aquarium in their meditation exercises, getting people to sit on the chair and just look at the fish for 45 minutes.  She said it was a very effective way of getting people to relax, breathe and disconnect from the outside world.

The thing about meditation is that I find it boring. And I have no attention span.  And my legs hurt when I sit in one crossed legged position for 45 minutes so I start to fidget.  But I should meditate to calm my head and keep my mind focused.  And I only very recently realized that I already do.  When I scuba dive, it’s the only time I’m completely relaxed and able to not let my mind wander.  That, for me is meditative. I don’t need to sit cross legged in a dimly lit room for 45 minutes to get the same result.

How does this scuba meditation work?

1)    Breath: In yoga and meditation, we’re taught to be aware of our breathing so we can inhale and exhale in a calm and controlled way.  Going deeper into our practice, breathing becomes a natural and effortless part of  doing yoga.  It’s the same method of breath control for scuba.  Long, slow inhalations and exhalations. And never ever hold your breath. After several dives, breathing underwater becomes second nature and I don’t even think about it.

2)    Awareness: Its really important while diving to be aware of yourself, your body movements and the aquatic environment to avoid injury to both, yourself as well as the marine life.  These are principals very similar to the ones we learn as yoga practitioners (ok, minus the aquatic environment bit)

3)    Alignment and technique: Proper weighting, buoyancy and swimming technique are again really important while diving to get the most comfortable, effortless and enjoyable experience.

4)    Drishti: Where to look?  Some people close their eyes while meditating, others stare at a fixed object or sometimes a candle. I Just look at  fish, coral or  the endless expanse of blue ahead of me.  Some days, its my buoyancy that I think about.  I close my eyes for a few minutes and go deep into the feeling of being weightless and gliding through the water with the current

Once I’m completely immersed in my dive with everything in order – my breath, my buoyancy, my scuba gear, my fin strokes – there’s no way my thoughts will linger.  Personal stuff, work stuff, all other stuff is an ocean away and I’m completely relaxed, immersed and meditative. Yes, my meditation is being in sea.  It works.