Trust and Scuba

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 inimg_6440 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 tofullsizerender-2 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:




2 thoughts on “Trust and Scuba

  1. Bob Strommen–Adventurer! (smile)

    A little late for the “mid-life crisis”–(but I see you got the mandatory sports car!) but welcome to the club!

    Most people go through this phase–they dedicate their early life to family and career–then find a time where they feel a need to catch up on “me time”–to do things they hadn’t done before–a seeking of experiential fulfillment. It often takes the form of experiencing something beyond what they have experienced before–and it often is an activity with risk–and new experiences. I’m sure that psychiatrists can come up with many and varied reasons this happens–and I’ve found it is personal to each participant. The common thread I’ve found is that unlike someone that takes up risky recreation as a youth–those that experience it in middle age take it up as a personal challenge–something that makes them feel ALIVE.

    I’ve done most of the common “risky” activities–mountain climbing, auto racing, motorcycles, sky diving, scuba diving, hang gliding–and of course my work–flying airplanes, helicopters, balloons, gliders, seaplanes. Each has been enjoyable–sometimes learning a new skill is enjoyable itself–sometimes you learn something about yourself. Some activities I’ve stayed with–others, I’ve tired of them and let them go–but glad I experienced them.

    Scuba diving falls into the last category–I’ve given it my best shot–experiencing it in the best dive sites in the world–the Bahamas, the Caymans, Cozumel, and Samoa. After learning the technical side of diving, I finally asked myself “what’s the point?” I have 20/200 uncorrected vision–so even in the clear water of the best diving in the world, I couldn’t see objects clearly at the limit of my vision. Reflecting back on my dives–I saw the occasional fish–saw some coral–scared myself on looking into the black abyss of a deep wall dive in the Caymans–then thought “What’s the point? Why am I doing this?” I’m glad I did it–but having experienced it, it was time to move on.

    In all adventure sports, there are objective risks (things you can do something about) and subjective risks (external forces come into play–you may not be able to do anything about it). With the rest of the adventure sports, there is usually a backup–mountaineers may belay–skydivers have a reserve chute. With Scuba–one gulp of water and it’s mostly over. I prefer to have more control over the outcome.

    Almost parenthetically, you mention purpose-filled travel. I too engage in this–we’ve traveled the world (78 countries by single-engine airplane). I’ve found that I like to travel with a purpose (and I note that the examples you cite all have a purpose as well). I like history–so when we take a trip to Europe, we bypass the tourist sites and try to find a place where history turned a page–battle sites of WW I and II–the great cathedrals–sites where someone DID something (more of your purpose-filled life). I noticed that you mentioned you may do PART of RAGBRAI–I’ve found that it helps to define and state an attainable but challenging goal, just as you do in running a marathon (yep–we’ve each done that as well!)–it’s more effective to say “I’m going to complete a marathon” than to say “I’m going to run for 25 miles”. Commit to doing the entire RAGBRAI instead of “part way”. My bicycling goal was “Minnesota border to border–from Iowa to International Falls”.

    As common as the “mid-life crisis” is–many people ask “Can I–SHOULD I do this?” (scuba diving, sky diving, etc.) My answer is “If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like–by all means, go ahead. If you can’t even fathom what it would be like–it’s probably not for you.”

    Welcome to the rest of your life!


  2. Jim, always provide an interesting perspective on my Ramblings… thank you for taking the time and interest….. you have given me the Title for my next Rambling;

    “Welcome to the rest of your life”…. you will receive 100% of royalty fees received over the balance of 2017 for this upcoming posting

    Thanks again for your comments


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