“How did that feel?” the instructor asked after I dipped my face into the shallow end of the pool for 3 seconds while wearing the scuba equipment.
“Bad,” I said.
“Feel strangled? That’s normal.”
“No,” I protested. “I can’t breathe.”
“There’s plenty of air in the tank,” he insisted. “Just relax.”
Once I finally realized the reason I couldn’t breathe was because I wasn’t sucking in air through the tube (which was wrong–not normal), the lesson went fine.
But even when you’re doing it correctly, breathing with the scuba gear wasn’t a careless process. Sucking oxygen into your mouth and transferring it to your lungs required a calculated action each time. Slowly pushing the air back out was a conscious decision. Reminding yourself that just because you are restricted to breathing through your mouth, via a tube, that doesn’t mean you’re not breathing was a thought that had to pass through your head in order to keep yourself submerged.
Back on land, I thought about how the best way to stay calm while scuba diving–or at least what I gathered from the 10 minute lesson in the pool at my tropical vacation resort–was to be completely aware of each breathing action while also not letting yourself get caught up with the in and out of the air. I wondered whether that was the best way to stay calm even while not weighed down with weights underwater.
So I tried it. I sat by the pool, and instead of soaking up the sun without thinking, I focused on breathing slowly in through my mouth, and then releasing the air slowly through the same channel. Could this easy–but deceptively complex–action be the cure to the heart-bursting-through-the-chest feeling I occasionally get when I’m angry, or stressed, or unsure of which ice cream flavor to choose?
I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet (I’ve been on a tropical vacation, so there hasn’t been all that much to get frustrated about), but I’m planning on it. If it works, then the scuba lesson will have been useful even if I never end up on an actual dive.