Please hold your breath for as long as you can while reading this article. If you would happen to have a very heavy object that you could drape on your neck while reading that would be a bonus. The reason you should do this is
that you can appreciate at least partially what it’s like to free dive with no more equipment than a belt that prevents you from floating up and the oxygen you have in your lungs. Free diving is what Hanli Prinsloo does for a living and of course when you are the kind of person who was photographed splashing around a dozen sharks people naturally want to know more about that. Turns out there is one thing in the ocean that is way more dangerous than all those sharks combined but we will get to that later.
The reason a diver is featured on a positive psychology blog is that Hanli emphasized several times throughout her engaging talk that the mechanics of free diving and the physical training are only half of the skills she needs to constantly train.
For one thing a free diver needs to be mentally and emotionally ready to get into the water and perform what they have practiced hundreds of times in that moment. That this will make the experience more rewarding is not such a big surprise but how it does so might be. For example Hanli mentioned that if you dive with whales and you are in a bad mood they just leave. That sounds like crazy talk but only if you are not aware of the concept of emotional contagion. Emotional contagion is what happens when you get ‘infected’ with someone’s mood. Seems like animals feel it to, something I suspect will not surprise those readers who own pets. So whales have more sense than we humans often do.
It doesn’t stop with mood though. Your frame and mind can be a matter of life and death as Hanli explained how to not get eaten by Tiger sharks. Basically it’s the same rule I have heard African safari rangers and bear experts say: only food flees. Every living thing makes a hasty retreat when they glimpse a Tiger shark so all you have to do to not get eaten is to look at the shark head-on, not move when it swims toward you and then just touch its front so it knows it should pass underneath you.
Now not getting eaten by sharks might not be such a pressing concern of yours. However remember that Hanli said that sharks where only the second most dangerous thing in the ocean? The most dangerous thing in the is your brain. Her brain had convinced her that she had gone blind and life was not worth living. All she had to do was let go. A memory saved her from doing just that (are you still holding your breath by the way?).
This shows very nicely that if you think working on your mind is a luxury of the rich it’s just the other way round: not working on your mind is the luxury. It means your life is so comfortable that working on yourself can be a pastime or not. Those who face life and death, chronic illness or other major issues don’t have that luxury. Thanks John Green for the quote and thanks to Hanli Prinsloo for the powerful stories to illustrate this.