The art of breathing and how it saved my life.

Scuba Diving in Maldives.

I was a fool to think it’d be easy. With half knowledge on how to swim and hardly any practice in ages, I still assumed it would be a cake walk. Little did I know the art of breathing would be a game changer. Half hour past watching the training video, we were taken to a man-made sand bank in the middle of the ocean, a 20 min ferry from the island of Maafushi. I took a leap of faith and jumped into the water with a heavy cylinder on my back and fins on my legs to support my journey. We were taught to breathe under water but I struggled to cope up.

You’re expected to breathe through your nose above sea level and through your mouth under water. The fact hardly struck me that I was getting trained just on the surface. I mixed and mashed the training techniques, mostly out of fear. For a self-claimed fearless adventurist, this was a turning point. I couldn’t breathe continuously for more than a few seconds while my lungs gasped for air. I  thought I should give up my goal of striking a tick across another adventurous activity on my bucketlist.

It was a constant switch of conversations inside my head from will I survive to what to do in life if I survive. (Remember the pact scenario from Zindegi Na Mile Dubara?) I trusted the trainer and decided to let him take me further deep into the hidden world under the ocean. I was still struggling to breathe and there was congestion inside my head. Adding on to that, equalization –  a simple technique to balance the pressure that mounts inside your body which when unbalanced is felt through pain in your ears, it takes you a little closer to feel the breaking of ear drums – became a difficult task.

You take something for granted and you don’t learn to love it until you realize you can’t live without it. I had never learned to think about breathing, let alone love. I panicked as I also dived into the uncertain waters of fear and anxiety. Amidst the chaos in my mind, I decided to let it flow. I told myself to calm down and observe my breathing. One breath at a time. I took control and buried the fear deep inside my head. And within a few seconds, I observed momentary bliss. Everything was calm inside and outside my head. A new unexplored world opened the door for me.

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When I made myself feel at peace after learning how to breathe for the first time in a little over two decades, I could see the mesmerizing underworld beauty. From beautiful corals to multi-coloured fishes, it was a visual treat. I survived somehow to experience surreal moments that took my breath away, quite literally. Observing the flora and fauna hundreds of meters below sea level became a new form of meditation. It was one of those beauties whose surreal beauty I can’t find words to explain. I probably never can.

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When I got back up and back to the boat with our teeth cluttering, body shivering and mind still reminiscing the beautiful moments, I had this urge of satisfaction, the feeling of contentment. The feeling that you’d want to keep experiencing every moment of your life. I want to go back once more to explore the underworld again, learn to breathe again and get mesmerized by the hidden treasures.

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I did go once again, but I chose to go snorkeling . If one life changing experience underwater wasn’t enough, I was fortunate to survive through another one. Not very far away from the sea bank in the island of Guraidhoo, I was swimming and occasionally floating around the crystal clear water. From transparent fishes to golden coloured fishes, leaf like to snake like fishes, caught my eyes 5 ft below me. It was all good until I felt the sensation of cramps on my right leg.

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I panicked and I was scared to death. My mind went numb and I was gasping for breath once again as I was trying to stay afloat. Water poured into my mouth and I struggled for air. Something struck me and I recalled my early teenage swimming lessons and tried to cycle with my left leg. I don’t remember how but I managed to get my neck above the water level and the first stroke of breath followed by continuous coughing gave me a sigh of relief. Few seconds of cycling and I managed to swim 20m with one leg and I reached the sand bank.

I took a deep breath, a breath for a new life.

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