Skimming Deep

Searching, traveling, talking, reflecting, and exploring. Read along with me as I continue on my journey through life.

Tag: fear

Removing Barriers

As I am still in a state of transition, I have been coming across mini-projects to overcome places in my life that I have often found to be abhorrent, impossible, undesirable…  just that I dislike or even “hate.”  But truthfully, there is very little in this world that I hate (people, places, things, etc.).  Hate is such a strong feeling.

Here are some of the things I’ve been tackling with the mindset that I don’t want barriers to get in my way to doing anything:

  • RUNNING.  Ironically, I was on the track team in high school.  More as a way to keep in shape in the spring than for any love of running or track and field activities.  I ran sprints and threw discus and did the lophotong jump.  Whenever we had to do long distance running, a few laps around the track or around the school, I just about died.  I hated it.  I hated the feeling of being out of breath, of the pains in my side and lungs, of pushing myself beyond my comfort zone.  Throughout my years in college and after, I’ve taken on running here and there, both indoors and outdoors, knowing that I didn’t really enjoy it; but it was a good, cheap way to stay in shape.  In Boston, I started running a bit when I lived in the city, near the Charles River, but over the years, I stopped and had no regrets.

I’ve started running again since I’ve been staying in Arizona where the weather is amenable to outdoors-running until it gets scorchingly hot.  I’ve been inspired by some friends who’ve been running marathons and long-distance for fun.  I’ve also been inspired by reading Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk about When I Talk about Running— a great read whether you’re a runner or not.  And I’ve also been inspired to do some of this “overcoming barriers” work for myself.  My solo-travels was about that to some extent.  Getting my scuba-diving license was about that, too.  Renting a moped in Pulau Pangkor without an international license and put-putting around that hilly island was about that, too.  Overcoming fears, taking down walls, getting over things I’ve disliked or resisted.

Because I am totally undisciplined when it comes to running (strange because I can be so disciplined about other things in my life), I decided to take on the “couch to 5K” regimen to start.  I’d heard good things about it from various sources.  I also looked at the regimen, and it seemed manageable.  I’m now on week four!  And so far, so good.

It’s amazing the voices that come up in my head when running.  At first, all seems good, and then as it starts to get challenging (I get winded; my legs feel strained; my lungs feel pressured), the voices telling me to take a break, to stop, to give up are so loud.  It takes all my willpower to quell those voices and keep going.  The work really begins when I want to stop (see my post about the practice of yoga and willpower— so relevant).

For now, I’m just trying to take each run for it is, another step.  Trying not to think too far ahead or think about the past and my dislike of running.  It’s definitely easier when the weather is nice as it has been in Arizona!

  • MAKING BREAD.  I brought back some sourdough starter from New Zealand from one of the families I stayed with, almost making a loaf of bread every week.  I’ve always had an inexplicable fear of making bread.  I think photo(1)it’s a “I’m not worthy” type of complex.  I was afraid of yeast and sourdough was another level beyond me.  I’m not sure what the fear was based on– fear of killing the little bacteria, fear of doing something wrong and failing, I guess.

Once I revived the starter and got to making the bread, I’ve tried various recipes and methods.  I’ve had to negotiate the dryness and elevation of Arizona and where my parents live (about 3500 ft above sea level).  And I’ve been using different types of flour– wheat, spelt, rye, white, multigrain.  And I’m finally getting the hang of it, after a bunch of loaves.  The key is having enough honey to add sweetness to the bread.  Also, kneading it enough to make sure everything is incorporated.

I haven’t eaten store bought bread in several months, and I’m loving it!  All that goes into the bread is the starter, flour, water, salt, some oil (I’ve been using olive oil or flaxseed oil), and some salt.  I even experimented with a loaf by adding fresh rosemary.  Yum!  There’s nothing like freshly baked bread.  This is a denser type of bread than the usual yeast breads, but I’m loving the whole process!

Doing even these two seemingly simple things– running and making bread– has taught me so much about how much we blow our barriers and challenges out of proportion.  They become monsters in our head, made up of irrational fears and dread.  And when we take the steps to break down those walls, the shadows and darkness are dissipated to reveal a beauty before unseen.

There are more things I am afraid of, that I dread or dislike; but for now, I’ll go with these two activities.  Nourishing my body in these two ways, building my willpower and my stamina.

Swallowing Gallons of Sea Water = Conquering Fears

When I left the U.S., I had considered trying to get my scuba diver license somewhere in my travels. But I wasn't totally sure. And then I made the decision to splurge and just do it somewhere between the end of my New Zealand trip and Ubud.

I found Adventure Divers Bali on TripAdvisor with great reviews, so I thought I'd give it a try. I emailed them, and they emailed right away, answering all my questions (including a slightly silly one I sent asking about my terrible eyesight and whether I could see underwater– they responded that they had some prescription masks, which ended up not being strong enough but still helped a lot).

I got into Amed Friday afternoon and got started with some instructional DVDs to learn some of the theory of diving. The heat was so oppressive, so where I originally thought I could do 6 units (short videos) in a few hours, I only got through two units. Got some dinner at a nearby warung recommended by the guesthouse owner, and then came back to my room and konked out at something like 8pm!

The next morning, I was up early (5am) and had some breakfast and then got started right away with my first two dives. What?! I had no idea how the course goes, so when David, the instructor, said we were going to go out diving, I was a little, no, more like, A LOT, nervous and freaked. But what I'm learning is that scuba diving courses are practical– just that many schools start in a pool, whereas in places where there are nice diving sites, they use the ocean as the training ground.

It's all a blur now, but these are some of the skills I learned in the three day course (each day involves two dives):

  • How to put together the equipment— buoyancy control jacket, tank, regulators
  • How to put on the equipment— all of the above which is one unit plus mask, fins, weight belt
  • How to do a shore entry— walk in with all that equipment on (except the fins) into the water, then put the fins on once you're in, trying not to get knocked over by any waves (but the water is pretty calm where we dive, usually).
  • How to breathe through the regulator. What a strange feeling breathing underwater. It sounded like Darth Vader. And it definitely took getting used to. It's so not normal to be swimming deep and breathing at the same time!
  • And a bunch of emergency-related skills, which were absolutely terrifying! Recovering your regulator if it gets knocked out (meaning you have to hold your breathe, exhale a tiny bit at a time, and do this search for the regulator hose). Blowing water out of your mask if it gets filled (hard and weird to do). Breathe normally with the regulator with no mask on (which involves taking off your own mask first, breathing, and then putting the mask back on)– this was the hardest skill for me because I think I tended to breathe a tad with my nose when using the regulator, so when I did the skill, I totally sucked in tons of water through my nose, swallowed tons of water, was panicking underwater, and thought I was going to die. I had to do that several times until my instructor was satisfied that I was doing it calmly. And I finally got the hang of proper only-mouth breathing. Taking off the whole scuba unit underwater and putting it back on. Pretending that you're out of air and go to use your buddy's alternate regulator. The list goes on for a couple more skills. Oh, and by the way, these were all skills that I learned over the course of three days.
  • Dive shop at Adventure Divers Bali, where we get our gear and also hang out, in the shade.

    On the first day, the first dive, especially, I was ready to just throw in the towel and walk out of the water; and if the instructor had let me do that, I would have. It was so scary to be doing these skills. I wasn't really enjoying myself. After the first mask removal skill try, I was pretty much sobbing underwater (I could feel my chest heaving uncontrollably) after I gulped down and breathed in a bunch of water. But it was almost like giving up wasn't an option with him. Not that he was militant, but he was just patient and kept having me go at it until I was relaxed and comfortable. He was the perfect combination of gentle, encouraging, persistent, and relaxed. He kept “telling” me underwater to breathe slow and relaxed, and he wouldn't let me move on to the next thing until I was all calmed down.

    Having one on one instruction by an English speaker who really cared about my technique and getting it all just so was excellent. I can't imagine if I had ended up at a dive shop where the instructor was Balinese or somewhere where they cared less about technique and more about just getting you certified so you could dive, but do so sloppily. He was the perfect teacher for me and for what I needed– someone who knew what he was doing, explained the theory and technique in ways I could understand, and kept reminding me underwater to “stay level,” “don't kick too much,” “breathe normally…” (all with hand signals and gentle taps with a metal pointer against his aluminum scuba cylinder).

    The first day is a far bygone memory at this point. I don't even remember what fish I saw or what the coral looked like or anything. I was just happy that by the end I was able to breathe through the regulator and get into and out of the water decently.

    Jukung- fishing boat used by Indonesian fishermen. Also can be used to take divers out.

    The second day, we did more skills (some of what was mentioned above). We took a little jukung (Balinese fishing boat) out to our dive site, and one of the young guys at the dive shop who's training to become a Divemaster came out with us. The current was pretty strong (I didn't realize how strong), so much so that they were both pretty much pulling me along at parts because otherwise I would be going backward or just staying in place. Because there was a strong current on both dives (less on the second), we ended up just diving with only a few skills. And the instructor just pointed a lot of ocean life. I couldn't see so well, but the most memorable were a slew of garden eels sticking their bodies out of the sand, waving in the ocean “breeze;” hawksbill sea turtles, which were big and gentle, like the funny Aussie turtles in Finding Nemo; some scorpion fish, trigger fish, and other funky things that I wrote in my divelog book.

    Photo of hawksbill sea turtle, from google images.

    I was more comfortable on my second day so I was able to notice more around me other than just focusing on my breathing. But since everything was new, I had no idea what was “special” and what is always just there (fish and plant life).

    I was so proud of myself for doing this– taking a course on my own, conquering fears, overcoming challenges. I really haven't pushed myself (or been pushed) to such limits as I was these past few days with the course and diving. I think this is the kind of challenge I've been looking for for the last several years, which is why I left my job and Boston– because things were just getting too comfortable, and I felt I wasn't pushing myself nor being pushed.

    Everything about my course was amazing– the instructor, the dive sites we went to, the ridiculously steep learning curve (you have no choice but to learn fast because otherwise you'll keep drinking water, or worse yet, drown!), the support from all the dive shop staff (whenever I'd come from a dive, everyone that worked at the dive shop would ask how my dive was and give me a smile and encouragement). It couldn't have been a better experience, really.

    In all, the course was three days, a total of five/six dives (not sure which dives counted as “fun,” which I have to pay for, and which were part of the course), a few hours of DVDs, a study guide worksheet, and a 50 question test, which I passed. And as I said, because it's low season, and because they just do it, I got one on one instruction. i talked to other people who mostly were part of larger groups (4-6) in their courses.

    If you love water, love fish and underwater creatures, and are ready for a challenge, I highly recommend scuba diving! And if you can, come to Amed, Bali and look for David at Diving Adventures Bali!

    I have photos from one of my dives, but they're on a flash drive, so I won't be able to post them until I return it the U.S. I'll have to do a retrospective post at that point!


    #27: Toe and Carpet

    Today was not a day of slowing down.  The beginning of a crazy week at work.  Must try again tomorrow.

    I took this photo just for fun today.  Not sure what made me take this one.  Kind of looks like the head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex eating my foot.

    I’ve been learning a lot lately about how much interpersonal conflict comes from reactions people have to others which is really driven by their own fears, insecurities, issues, challenges, or even as simply as not being given a chance to air their own opinions or thoughts.  Once you actually name the fear, insecurity, issue, or challenge or give the other person a chance to air their opinions or thoughts, the air is cleared and the conflict disappears.

    I’m in a situation now where I’m moving fast on some business matters without giving much chance to others to air their fears and concerns.  A lot of the business is being done over email rather than in person or even on the phone because there just isn’t time.  And in the process, I’m jarring a lot of nerves and rustling feathers that probably would be inevitable because of the way I’m handling the whole situation.  If I had more time and energy, I’d be talking to each of the individuals whose feathers are being rustled, check in and make sure to understand how they’re feeling about the abrupt and quick changes, and assuage their fears.  But there really isn’t the time.

    I’m actually depending on trust I have in the bank with these people to ensure them (over email) that my intent is not destructive, negative, harmful, but is really because there just isn’t time (or money) to take my (our) time on things.  And so far, I’ve been able to ride on that extra “trust”-savings I have.  However, I’m not sure how long that will last.  Will it last till the end of August when I leave it all behind?

    So dealing with interpersonal conflict– what matters:

    • having trust that was built up over time through genuine relationship building.  This comes from years of listening, being positive, not taking things personally, being genuine and honest in all aspects of a relationship.
    • getting at the “heart” of the matter— what’s really bothering that person?  When they say something, there’s usually an underlying message, and the hard part is finding out what’s at the heart.
    • not taking it personally myself.  I’ve often found that taking things personally is usually the wrong thing to do because most of the time it isn’t about me, it’s really about other person and something they’re dealing with.  (Well, I can say that because I don’t think I do mean things to people usually.  At least not intentionally!)
    • taking the time to communicate from a place of genuine care.  And if it doesn’t work, then let it go.  But it takes time and genuine care to hash through miscommunication and layers of issues and other fogginess.  This can’t be rushed for sure.

    And on that note, we come back to “s l o w i n g   d o w n.”

    I realized after thinking a bit more about my entry yesterday that I slow down for others.  But I don’t slow down for myself.  And I need to do that.  In fact, I rush mostly when it comes to myself.  Not giving myself time to relax, reflect, and replenish the energy that is depleted from rushing.  Interesting…

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