Underwater, Just Breathe

Moments. The ones reminding us that the world is a big place and everything we think we know is only one part of the truths within it. When I was a child, I thought I would grow out of this feeling as I grew up – my first time snorkeling was yet another reminder (of many) that, no, I really won’t. There’s a whole world out there, seemingly so separate from my own with its own set of truths. But which I come to discover as a reflection of myself; and myself, a reflection of its wonders.

My first snorkeling experience was at Xcaret, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Even the most touristy of places in Mexico are deep in culture, beauty and nature so while Xcaret is a theme park, a more manufactured experience, it still touched me. We did the snorkeling excursion. The reefs and the wild life inhabiting them were eye candy – vibrant in color and meticulous in detail. My first look and I had to have more, a craving of my body and spirit, a resistance of my mind. Especially amidst the comfort of white sandy beaches, breezy rooftops and juicy cocktails of Playa Del Carmen.

Freediving or scuba diving? Or maybe snorkeling was enough, witnessing from the surface. There’s a quote that goes:

“If you want to explore your outer world, underwater, wear a tank. If you want to explore your inner world, underwater, don’t.” (anonymous)

I thought too long on this, of course I wanted to explore my inner world. But did I? Did I want to discover the limitations of my breath, or be lost in a beauty beyond myself? The path of least resistance became scuba diving for me, for now. Nonetheless, it still took me three months living in Playa del Carmen as my home base before signing up for my first scuba diving course. It kept coming up in conversations, invitations. Scuba diving chose me. It wouldn’t stop calling my name until I said yes.

Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico – the visibility here is like none other, the water is crystal clear

Dive 16: I feel a lack of ease, as I try to position my body linear, feet slightly lifted. I notice my mind is all over the place, thinking about the girl that passed me on the street, the look on her face, my last conversation with my sister, an anxious thought about health insurance and, now I’m floating upward… I remember to exhale slowly. Come back to the moment. My body lowers as I let go. of my breath. of my thoughts. Glowing green, small little fish in a school swim by, as they sparkle in the light. The green water glows, it puts me in a trance, I’m still. I want to make promises. Promises of connection, with myself, with my world. I am here now. Gratitude engulfs me like the water surrounding my body, holding me but letting me move freely. The light dancing within and around me. I feel light.

Dive 5: I’m releasing air from my BCD, occasionally as I inhale, I realize I’m holding my breath. I exhale. The dissent into the deep begins, toward 30 meters down. The air is tighter than I remember, I become anxious about my breath. My mask becomes suction tight, I try to adjust it. All the while, the current has separated me from my instructor; she then comes to meet me, as I accidentally flood my mask with water and work to blow it out. I become winded and the only thing I can do. is stop. inhale. exhale. slowly. She’s holding my hand. I breathe my way into calmness. We begin our dive. I am here now.

Dive 14: I am in another land, another world. It is breathtaking and calming, it feels like all I can do is be with it. is breathe. I’m tempted to chase the most colorful, vibrant glowing fish, striped with blue, reflecting and shining, blinding me from the distraction of everything else. I know if I do, my time down here will be less. I exhale. I relax and look forward. I didn’t want to keep moving, to find something better. I wanted what was there before it disappeared. A huge sea turtle is swimming directly toward me, time freezes as it brushes my shoulder to swim by. I don’t feel like a visitor. I feel a part of this world. It exists with or without me. I am here now.

Diving feels like meditation. But not the sitting kind. A meditation, an interplay of the body and the mind, and the reflection of each on the other.

The ocean, the water, the under world seems to be whole system, with planets like outer space. Something beautiful to observe as a combination of its parts, its details. That’s where I start. Then I want to go deeper to experience each piece. I want to be friends with one fish. Connect with one part instead of the busy-ness flowing in and out. Passing me by. Everyone trying to survive, with moments of eating, travel-going; I meet eyes with one fish. I wonder, do you know how beautiful you are? How intricate your detailed design?

I’m lost in the moment, it could be 10 minutes, it could be 30, not sure. I come back to being conscious of myself, I wonder… where is my friend, where is my instructor? I want to find more moments of not wondering where something else is that is not in front of me. Moments of being, less thinking. Just breathing where I am.

Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico

I come to listen. With so many questions. Answers within. Unfinal, a process. I come to be open, aware of my edges.

Going deep feels like letting go. Like a long exhale, I release my air. release myself. surrendering to what is, my fear falls. with my breath.

The richness I discover is always there. My process seems to be one of finding a way to partake in the experience of it all. To delight in the abundance that already exists through life itself.

A part of me wants to matter. 
A part of me want to be.
A part of me wants to find. 
how to be. my best. 
And a part of me lavishes in the moment. because this is what I have.
coming back to the breath.

the dancing light, connecting lines, reflections multiplied 
against a thousand spaces
the water shinning crystal blue between 
its flaming hues
I'm in it. a part, and a piece 
of reflecting light, crystal of the blue
mesmerized, my eyes, caught in a trance, rey of my mind
only the light goes on forever
reflecting on and on, in anything that lets it through

I search the fish’s eyes for some evidence that they feel connected, just like me, in the deep deep blue.

Cenote Taj Mahal, Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico

2 thoughts on “Underwater, Just Breathe

  1. This was mesmerizing to read and I felt my own breath become more regulated and deep as I read. Your experiences and descriptions are so vivid, thank you for sharing this with us. I love how you are experiencing such a new sense of self after chasing the calling of SCUBA. And that first photo, the clarity! It’s unreal. Beautiful piece, Rachel.


  2. Awesome Rachel!! Beautiful pics and writing from your heart. That’s so special that you connect with those beautiful God-created critters in the deep sea. I enjoyed this journey with you.!


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