Breathe in. Breathe out. That's all I had to do. You wouldn't think it would be such a challenge. But tricking my brain into accepting that I really could breathe underwater took some convincing. Especially when the last time I talked my brain into such an ordeal the following happened:
A) I descended into the murky waters of Lake (un)Pleasant where I could only see about 2 feet in front of me.
B) My dive instructor, Andy, took me through (what felt at the time like) tortuous training procedures such as turning off my air supply and making me flood my scuba mask with water.
The last time my brain did anything like this, my air supply was (momentarily) cut off and my sight was (temorarily) taken away from me. Can you blame my brain for objecting to sinking below the waves? I fought that first descent; I didn't get even a half meter below water before I kicked wildly back up to the surface, nearly hyperventilating. It was a true mind game to force my brain to accept my commands to breathe slowly--in...and out...in...and out--as my shoulders, then my mouth, my nose, my eyes, the top of my head sank beneath the surface of the ocean. I was underwater, and my lungs could handle it. Finally, that brain of mine stopped protesting and started to absorb the total awe of the setting. And, oh, how great it was once I convinced my brain to cooporate, to forget about the fact that humans aren't built to breathe underwater!
Scuba diving felt like the most primative, and yet the most hi-tech thing I have ever done. Surrounded completely by water, the only thing I could really hear was the regular in-and-out of my own breathing. Seriously, how primal can you get? And how soothing. Yet this simple act, the very first thing we do without effort or thinking the moment we enter this world, requires complicated, carefully assembled devices, monitored with a computer, and proper training. There I was, 15 meters below water, and I could breathe!
Once I wrapped my mind around that little miracle, I headed off through the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, following Alan, one of the dive crew. I felt quite clunky on my first few dives; I bounced around the Great Barrier Reef like a yo-yo as I tried to get control of my buoyancy, struggled with equalizing my ears, and spent more time thinking about myself than the sights I was seeing on the reef. However, by day two of my dive trip, I had gained confidence enough to really enjoy it all.
It's truly amazing to be in the middle of a world that is so very foreign. It reminded me a bit of standing on a street corner in Hanoi, Vietnam, watching the cars/buses/motorbikes whiz by, completely clueless as to how the system works. I felt so totally out of my element, yet so totally consumed by the experience at the same time. It was all my high school biology textbooks come to life. It was an IMAX movie in 4-D. It was REAL, live fish and turtles, rays and coral, SHARKS(!) and baracuda! And I was in and amongst them. It was simply exhilerating.
I can tell that scuba diving is addictive. There absolutely no way I can let the Great Batrier Reef be the only scuba experience I have. There must be other trips, more adventures, more bio textbook pages come to life for me. I'm hooked.