Why deep hangs make me happier…Something like that.

At the moment, being happier is the reason I dive.
To me, diving as a tool to be happier means taking positive emotions, sensations and thoughts in and out of the water and creating a positive loop. More specifically, this has come to mean helping clarify and understand what I want and what is important to me in my life. Then using those insights to add to my life quality. I have been doing this with deep hangs.


Last year I was facing a heavy dilemma in my personal life. I was desperately trying to think it through but dilemmas, by nature, have good arguments either way. Rationalisation and logic were tying me up in knots and paralysing my decision making.
I was sometimes deep hanging in my dives. On one of these dives I arrived at the bottom plate, turned around and settled myself into a slumped seated position, eyes closed and arms loosely wrapped around the line. As I hung something happened.
For a brief moment, the complex web of my dilemma untangled and the answers became clear. It wasn’t a breakthrough of logic but a purely instinctive understanding – gut feeling for want of a better word.
I read about an Australian Aboriginal concept – ‘Dadirri’ or a “state of deep listening”. As I understood, it includes aspects of tapping into the ‘whole’ mind made up of three brains – the logical brain, the heart/emotional brain and the gut/instinctive brain. We speak of ‘using our gut’ or ‘following our heart’ but the logical brain often dominates and muddies the waters.
I find this concept helpful to describe what I stumbled upon. It seemed the noise of my logical mind lowered, allowing my instinctive and emotional brains to come into the balance so that the three worked in unison – sensing, feeling and thinking. A veil had been pulled back and I was filled with awareness, clarity, understanding and acceptance. This Cathartic state was brief only to evaporate back on the surface. My logical brain took the reins again and the fog of my dilemma swirled back in.
What I stumbled upon was lost to a back shelf somewhere – at that point I was still diving for numbers. However, it would return at a later date and I would come to feel that it could profoundly influence my life and diving.


A few months ago, I took a short break from diving and rethought my approach. It wasn’t that my previous approach was bad – on the contrary I felt I was training intelligently. I was patient in order to avoid setbacks and negative diving experiences. I repeated depths bordering on comfortable/challenging many times and tried to be disciplined – going deeper only when I felt there was total control and no doubt. I put my ego in check – depth charging and personal best frenzy were put aside. I was mostly controlling it rather than it controlling my diving. The ‘results’ were very good – most of the time.
However, I felt I was missing something in my diving. I realised I was caught in a mind game. Controlling my ego and desire for depth, precisely to feed my ego and desire for depth. There was still residual angst in my diving. I felt there was more to diving for me than an insidious numbers game.
Undeniably, controlling my ego had brought many positives. But I thought what if I try to kill my ego and remove it from my diving? Was it possible? Where would that take my journey as a diver? That direction interested me a lot. I had a hunch it would lead to something good – more expansive, transcendental even.
So I decided to let go of numbers and depth for depths sake – pleasure would be the only measure. This meant only doing dives where I could maintain stability – where I could reasonably trust I would encounter positive thoughts, emotions and sensations and technical control. I would not push through into grey areas but work on the border of them and patiently remove them. Not so different from my previous approach but given the driving motivation, easier to be more patient and a lot more honest with myself.


In practice I was diving shallower and gravitating back towards hangs. The hangs started to go deeper again. This time it was not about the depth or the time. I had stopped looking at times or depths of dives. They were not important. I started to rediscover the clarity and understanding I had felt on my hang in Mactan. I was gaining valuable epiphanies about myself, my life and what I cared for. Even better now they were staying with me and not evaporating back on the surface.
I am not sure what the state I get from these hangs is – narcosis? Something else? A mix of things? I know I do not get them on a shallower hang. When describing my experiences I have been told it has parallels to what people experience on LSD. Whatever it is it has become a real phenomenon worth seeking out for me. It has transformed my diving into a positive loop. I am able to carry my insights back to the surface and spill them out into my daily life. Trying to weed out my ego from my diving has had knock on effects in my relationships. I feel I am more empathetic, patient, understanding and communicative. Consequently, Life is happier, more positive – and so I come back to the water as a happier diver. My dives are fun and comfortable and I am excited and intrigued about what might await me down there. Holding your breath often amplifies the emotions, sensations and thoughts we take or create down there. Deep hangs allow an extended moment of stillness to keep turning the volume up. I bring those amplified things back to the surface and on the whole the loop continues.
The physical sensations I can feel on these dives are very fun. I have the sense that my face is lifting off and my limbs and head feel like they are evaporating much like an object would if teleported. The boundaries of my body can blur – it’s almost like the idea of becoming part of the environment or one with the water as they say. Sometimes I get a high pitched ringing in my ears, or have a wide grin. After surfacing there are times I burst into fits of giggles and laughter or the intensity of the epiphanies leave me somewhat breathless.


For now being happier is the reason I dive. It shapes what and how I dive. At the moment, I rarely have to control myself as I tend to gravitate towards that comfortable pleasure zone that fosters that state.
Consequently, as that zone and loop keeps extending I have a feeling that it will take me deeper than I have been before in an enjoyable way – despite or maybe because I have let go of numbers. Even if it means I do not realise my full potential in terms of depth I don’t feel I will need those extra metres. Perhaps there is another direction to explore to realise my full potential as a diver and instructor.
A quote from legendary surfer Phil Edwards sums it up best for me – “The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun”.

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