Why Freediving Is Not True Meditation (But It Can Help To Reach It)

Meditation is a practice that has been revered for centuries as a mean to cultivate inner peace, mindfulness, and spiritual growth. However, while today many activities may share certain aspects with meditation, not all practices can be classified as true meditation.

In recent years, freediving has gained popularity as an underwater activity and a form of self-discovery. Often hailed as a meditative activity, freediving is known for its ability to create a sense of tranquility, a thoughtless state, and a deep connection with the ocean.

However, it is important to recognize that while freediving shares some similarities with meditation, it should neither be considered real meditation, nor a replacement for a classic meditation practice.

History of Meditation.

Vedic and Hindu Traditions 

The earliest written records of meditation can be traced to the Indus Valley civilization, dating back to around 5,000 BCE. The Vedas, a collection of hymns and rituals, contained references to dhyana (meditation) as a means of attaining higher states of consciousness, fostering spiritual growth, and achieving a deeper understanding of the self and the universe. Over time, various Hindu traditions, such as Yoga and Vedanta, further developed and systematized meditation techniques.

Buddhist Meditation 

Around the same period, Siddhartha Gautama, later known as the Buddha, sought enlightenment through meditation. The Buddhist tradition, rooted in the 5th century BCE, placed a strong emphasis on meditation as a path to liberation from suffering. Through practices like mindfulness and concentration, the Buddha taught his followers to cultivate awareness and insight into the nature of existence.

Daoist and Confucian Influences 

In ancient China, Daoist and Confucian philosophies also embraced meditation as a means of spiritual cultivation. Daoist practices, such as Qigong and Tai Chi, integrated movement, breath control, and meditation to harmonize the body, mind, and spirit. Similarly, Confucian scholars explored meditation as a way to cultivate virtue and attain inner wisdom.

Zen Meditation

Indian Buddhist monk Bodhidharma who is said to have traveled to China in the late 5th century is credited for the transmission of Buddhist teachings from India to China. Bodhidharma’s emphasis on direct experience and intuitive insight became the cornerstone of Zen practice. Zen Buddhism later spread to Japan in the 12th century, where it came to be known as “Zen.”

Ancient Egypt and Other Cultures

The ancient Egyptians also had a rich tradition of meditation. They believed that the afterlife was a continuation of earthly existence, and meditation was used to prepare for this journey. Egyptian hieroglyphics depict scenes of individuals engaged in deep contemplation and stillness.

Beyond these prominent civilizations, records and artifacts from ancient Greece, Rome, and indigenous cultures around the world indicate the presence of meditation practices in various forms. From Native American vision quests to African trance rituals, meditation took diverse shapes across cultures but shared a common intention: to quiet the mind and access deeper realms of consciousness.

The Limitations Of Freediving.

Detachment from Thoughts and Desires

One of the fundamental principles of meditation is learning to observe thoughts and desires without judgment or attachment. During freediving, while individuals may experience a temporary sense of calm and focus, the mental state remains intertwined with the physical sensations, risks, and challenges of freediving.

Freedivers must maintain awareness of their breath and bodily sensations to ensure their safety and well-being. This heightened awareness, however, may hinder the ability to detach from thoughts and desires, as the mind remains engaged in monitoring carbon dioxide and oxygen levels, equalizing the ears, and maintaining safety.

In freediving, the breath and the mind are used to assist in achieving a physical feat. Even if mental techniques like visualization are used in training, being able to freedive to 150 m or holding your breath for 15 minutes in your mind is not going to bring you a world record. Physical validation is needed. Desires and expectations to freedive deeper, to hold the breath longer, to freedive new exotic destinations are not what true meditation is made of.

In true meditation practice, the aim is to detach from external stimuli and physical feats and achieve a state of pure awareness and tranquility. By training the mind to observe thoughts and sensations without attachment, meditation cultivates mindfulness, compassion, and introspection.

One comes out from a dive the same person he was before freediving but one comes out a changed person from true meditation.

External Dependencies

Freediving relies on external elements such as equipment, training buddies, and the underwater environment itself. Equipment like wetsuits, fins, masks, and weights are essential for performance. The company of other freedivers is needed for safety. Freediving does not exist without water, and the freediver’s feats do not exist without his buddies and equipment.

In contrast, true meditation requires no external dependencies, as it is an internal practice that can be done anywhere, at any time, with no need to own expensive wetsuits and fins, and without having to rely on water and humans to progress.

Absence Of Moral Code

Hindu yogis, Buddhist monks, and Zen Buddhists all follow a certain code of conduct that comprise the foundation of their spiritual and meditation practice. They embrace vows like not to kill, not to steal, not to lie, not to be greedy, and to avoid taking certain food and substances, among many others as a commitment to harmony and self-restraint with the principal motivation being nonviolence or freedom from causing harm.

Freedivers on the other hand do not have such a moral code to follow. While there are a few rare freedivers who came into freediving with a yogic or Buddhist background, and who still live by their moral code, cheating your way to a freediving record by taking substances or promoting non-ethical mass tourism involving marine life for the sake of a superficial selfie are all part of what freediving has become.

Freediving, A Step Closer To Meditation.

Freediving is an exceptional activity that offers numerous physical and mental benefits, and if given the chance can be a powerful tool to help achieve meditation.

While the purpose, techniques, mental states, and external dependencies involved in freediving prevent it from being a proper meditation practice, practicing freediving as a discipline helps in slowing down the thought process, which is a crucial step to being able to meditate.

When you are deep down in the ocean, you can’t hear anything, you can’t see anything, you can’t smell anything, you can’t taste anything, and even the feeling of water on your skin becomes so natural that you do not feel it anymore. As a result, you start to think less.

This is closer to the practice of withdrawal of the senses known as Pratyahara in ancient scriptures which is a preliminary to a concentration and meditation practice.

Freediving may not be true meditation, but practicing it will certainly get you closer to meditation than your average yoga class.

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