A Trapezist, a Skydiver and a Freediver walk into a bar...
The title of this article might be a little something out of left field, but read on and I assure you, there is method to my madness. As I sat in bed this morning getting my daily dose of inspiration (this week is Tim Ferris’s Tribe of Mentors) I came across as excerpt written by Soman Chainani outlining one of the most worthwhile investments he has ever made. His answer, unique enough to leave an impression but relatable enough to leave an etched memory, was Flying Trapeze lessons. He described Flying Trapeze as “shock therapy for the soul” and “the most intimate experience I've had with myself. Just one class made me realize that underneath my mind’s chatter, my body has everything under control if I’m willing to take the plunge and fly”. The primary lesson of the experience had very little to do with the intricacies of the sport itself, but instead with the seed planted deep in the mind, providing insight into how the rest of the garden grows.
In the same step, a very good friend of mine works as a skydive instructor in Australia, and has a similar way of describing the anticipation of launching himself out of a plane, thousands of meters in the air, with a parachute he packed himself. He describes his airborne zen as his clarity time, when the stresses of everyday life no longer matter. His mind chatter is quieted by instinct, and his ability to surrender to the elements and trust that his body (and equipment) will withstand the endeavor is paramount to remaining calm, clear, focused and ultimately successful in the attempt. As human beings in the 21st century, many would argue we are no longer masters of our own fight or flight responses, and our body and mind rarely give way to manifestation of the reactions that were once a common occurrence. We have used technology to climb to the top of the food chain, and most of us no longer worry about being eaten by a lion while out foraging for roots and berries. Instead, we give in to day to day stresses of work, relationships, external validation and consumerism, building and building with no release. Until we do something dramatic.
Flying Trapeze is about trusting your body in it's natural state. Skydiving is about having a calm mind to make the right decisions and to stay sharp in time of physiological stress. Freediving is immersing yourself in a world that is foreign and scary, yet surrendering to your body’s ability to withstand tremendous change. There is countless scientific evidence which alludes to the fact that the human body is built to be underwater, and that our liquid reflexes take over to protect and nurture the body in times of stress. Many scientists and freedivers alike refer to this phenomenon as the mammalian dive reflex- a physiological response that has allowed humans to push the “determined” limits farther and farther, and continue to descend deeper and deeper into the abyss, trusting only our own DNA to keep us alive. Thinking of your body as environmental armor normally comes as a counter-intuitive training technique, and in the beginning combines mental relaxation with an increased ability to tolerate the bodies survival responses. The minute we try and fight our bodies responses with physical strength and ego is the moment we cease to accept or understand that our body is acting to keep us alive.
So what is the primary lesson to take away from learning to freedive?
Acceptance of how incredible this human form we occupy is. Understanding that we are brought into this world with amazing abilities, and amazing mental capacity, and by un-tapping these hidden truths one at a time, we can learn how to incorporate them in our every day life, and make the most of our existence. Mike Maples Jr says, “Ego is about who’s right. Truth is about what’s right”. When we learn about ourselves, dissect the relationship between our body and our mind, we learn a better truth that can shine a more ominous light on the ego.