Lessons from Scuba Diving: Listening, Trusting, Learning How to Breathe and Comfort in Growth
I decided to take scuba training and certification—something I have always wanted to do. Why? In short, because I am fascinated with life and all it has to offer. I enjoy trying new things and challenging myself to step out of my comfort zone. As a Facebook friend told me, “Bob the world is about to get so much bigger for you, congratulations!”
Indulge me as I “ramble” about my first “controlled” underwater experience.
Confronting fear I enjoy swimming and have no fear of water (although I may fear what’s in the water below me). However, I do have fears and some anxiety of scuba diving: I fear I might get claustrophobic; could drown; or an eel or shark might get me. During a scuba diving training session, the instructor was talking of the beauty and peacefulness of open water ocean diving with fish and sharks. As he said, “for the most part, the sharks are harmless,” I was thinking “most part?!” On the other hand, as a child one of my favorite TV (black and white of course) shows was Lloyd Bridges’ “Sea Hunt.” I could visualize myself coming to the rescue, spear gun in hand.
Outcome: I loved my first dive (ok, it was in a pool at a maximum of 12 feet and 80-degree water, but still my first). I did not experience as much anxiety as I had anticipated but it was still there. I was not claustrophobic and although I had an initial fear about being able to breathe underwater that soon became increasingly natural. That in itself was a great reminder that fear and anxiety can be overcome by confronting the fear head on and not hiding from it. To continue to practice and engage in different behavior becomes increasingly natural and instinctual. It helped that I knew there would be no sharks or eels in the pool—one less thing to be concerned about (I will save that for the real ocean certification dive!). I also have, as a result of the actual experience, a much greater respect for Lloyd Bridges in Sea Hunt.
Experiential learning is the only way to either validate or overcome a fear. Until we have experienced something, being critical or overly confident is most likely a misplaced behavior.
Stretching our comfort zones! Staying within one’s comfort zone may make us feel safe, however it does not offer the opportunity to grow. Growth is comforting and, in fact, possibly even more rewarding than staying within a safe comfort zone and not stretching our personal capacity. The thought of “I should have done _______!” scares me as I have had too many of those in recent years. I feel that I cheated myself out of God-given gifts.
Have you ever thought of stretching outside your comfort zone in this way? I have found it more rewarding than avoidance.
Outcome: Going outside of my comfort zone and relying on breathing from a tank, even in a safe 12-foot pool that I knew posed no risk to my survival, still created a bit of anxiety and caused my heart to beat a bit faster. Was it anxiety or excitement? Quite possibly it was both. However, I found by the end of the session that I had settled into a new normal rhythm. My comfort zone had been expanded! Now the next test: Will this comfort transfer to open water (lake or ocean) scuba diving?
Expanding our capacity for trust My scuba diving training has helped me learn more about trust: Trust of the instructor who assured us the equipment worked; trust that the breathing regulator would do just that (regulate the air flow); and trust that there was air in the tanks (even though it could not be seen or touched). Sort of sounds like the trust we place in our faith and belief in God; another lesson I hadn’t expected. This showed me more about my relationship with God a growing faith and how to better grow in personal and business relationships.
Outcome: Listening to others who have deeper knowledge, additional perspectives, and who are receptive to questions helps build trust, not just with me, but also the person sending the message…what a great lesson that is. This enhanced the outcome of my experience and broadened my perspective to expand my comfort zone. I am also experiencing this as I consider a trip to Mongolia for a mission outreach, an invitation to explore opportunities with Haiti Teen Challenge, joining a group on a bike ride across (part of the way anyway) Iowa (for the RAGBRAI), and a Crossroads bike trip in Napa and Sonoma…all requiring an expanded comfort zone that creates excitement and need for trust. Learning to trust adds value to many of our experiences.
Sit back and think to yourself or with your partner/spouse: What are you (or we) doing to expand our comfort zone(s) and build trust?
Explore interests and embrace life! Living a wholehearted life requires having a broad spectrum of interests and experiences—those that can add substance to life and our relationships. Experiences can expand our learning to embrace life and to respond to life’s challenges with grace and open-mindedness. Others in that first scuba class were there for similar reasons as me and it reminded me that sharing new experiences with someone else would be even that much more rewarding and meaningful—to share the anxiety and the fear and then banter about it afterward.
Outcome: Being underwater, hearing only the sound of your own breathing (something we usually take for granted) is calming, peaceful, and almost spiritual as you are reminded of the magnificent miracle of life and how our bodies were put together to sustain life.
Listening for understanding How critical this was for my first dive in a controlled environment: There was potential danger if I didn’t listen and learn the correct way to breathe underwater (keeping my mouth shut). It’s a lot like life: There is a time to listen and a time to keep our mouths shut. To listen not just to the words of others, but the meaning behind the words as that is how true learning and understanding is grounded. Listening intently for meaning and understanding is the foundation to almost everything, my scuba instructor not excluded. (There is a great book entitled Keep your Love On! by Danny Silks, possibly one of the best easy-to-read yet substantive books on communication and relationships I have read and embraced).
Outcome; I learned the “why” of what we were being told by the instructor. I felt the “ah ha, I get it!” I was reminded of the power to restate what I heard for validation and understanding. I wanted to make sure I heard correctly as discovering while underwater that I heard incorrectly was not a good time to learn. I was reminded that being challenged by the instructor was for my own good and not to take offense or get defensive as there are clearly others with greater knowledge and perspective than mine.
Scuba is going to be great. It has many parallels to life and I am excited for the added dimension it adds to life. Again as a Facebook friend commented, “Bob this will expand your world!” How cool!
What dimensions and experiences have you considered alone or as process of co-authoring a book of “US” for your wholehearted life ahead? May I borrow from a Nike commercial and say:
JUST DO IT!