Embrace the Chaos.
Warning: This article may convince you to reach outside your comfort zone. Please, do not do anything life endangering with out proper precautions. This information is meant to enhance your life.
NOT END IT!
Life is chaos. For most of us, we will reach a point where we get caught up in the whirl wind and begin to panic, stress out and doubt ourselves. There are a million self help books that will "teach" you how to cut this out of your life, how to conquer the world around you and be a better you. This will not do that. Come to think of it this needs to come with a warning label. Because what I am about to suggest and what a handful of people know, could get sketchy.
The Northern California coast line is notorious for its Abalone and the numerous places that you can dive for them. It is also notorious for the amount of people who swim out to collect these mollusks, only to become a fatality statistic. Between the rough surf, the great whites and the rip currents, there is plenty of reasons not to swim out. So why do I continue to risk my life do it? To be completely honest, abalone isn't even on my top 20 things to eat, it's a ton of work to clean and unless you eat it fresh there is really no point to it at all. To me, it is all about the swim. I love the ocean, more then almost any other environment. It is a completely foreign world and I am a foreigner in it. Beyond that, anyone that has a decent amount of experience knows that the ocean is a fickle partner to dance with, you never get to lead and any mistake can cost you dearly.
My first experience with the power of the ocean was when I was a child, surfing in Hawaii. I am not a surfer by any means because unless you live in warm water like Hawaii, you can go ahead and forget sitting on a board in 50 degree water waiting for a small wave to push you a couple hundred feet. Point being, it was my first time. I paddled out and proceeded to do everything you are not supposed to do resulting in being ejected from the board. The ocean responded to this misstep by repeatedly picking me up and slamming me against the floor of the ocean. Even though this was many years ago, I can remember the thoughts in my head, "Take a breath, take a breath, take a breath!" I was in full on panic mode.
Once I started free diving, I had a very similar thing happen to me while in Mexico. I jumped into the water and quickly realized that there was around 2% visibility (4-6") and that I couldn't see my hand in front of my face let alone a shark or jelly fish that might want to ruin my day. I freaked out, got back in the boat and decided beer and sun was more my style. Looking back, it didn't sit well with me that I was chased out of the water due to my own imagination. Nothing had actually happened to me, I was just allowing my self to get worked up and let it freak me out. The next time I had something like this happen was back in California. We swam out in what I probably should have recognized as poor conditions. We worked our way out and proceeded to get our asses handed to us. It brought me reeling back to the Hawaiian surf experience, I was being tossed around like a G.I Joe in a washing machine. There was a moment of panic, but then, there was a moment of peace.
We always hear the phrase "take a deep breath". When your being spun head over heels in the ocean, that is not really a possibility. However, there is a practice of calming your mind, bringing and quite literally slowing your heart rate. This is the effective part of the "Deep Breath" mentality. There are practical reasons to do this in diving, an accelerated heart rate uses more oxygen then a slow one, and being that you are trapped under water this is a definite plus. The unforeseen benefit is that you can not slow your heart rate down if you head is moving a million miles an hour, you have to focus, you have to clear your mind of all things that may bring your heart rate up. This includes fear.
We hear a lot of people through around the word Zen. It usually comes from the hippy chick wearing leggings talking about her yoga class and her meditation regiment, don't get me wrong, if it helps, do your thing, however I have tried meditation and yoga and while they both have there benefits, there was something missing. Even if I could conjure up a bit of serenity there was nothing holding it in place. As soon as I came across frustration it took over me and basically erased the work i put in. Now if you look at the teaching of Zen, they are very similar to what I described reaching in my moments difficulty while diving. You observe the mind and the breath, but instead of sitting and chanting, you are in a position of intense peril. Once you can achieve this it is much easier to move about the day to day frustrations of life. Whats worse, the threat of drowning or your boss yelling at you, the possibility of being eaten by a shark or the idiot honking his horn behind you? Take it away from diving. One of my favorite things to torture myself with is Muay Thai Kick Boxing. I don't go nearly enough to be any good, but every week I go in there and spar with the fight team. Why? Because if you can keep your head while a 200 pound Red Headed Viking is kicking you in the face, you don't really care that much about somebody in traffic giving you the finger or meal order not coming back how you like it.
So if all that above was just incoherent rambling, let me break this down for you. Do difficult things that scare the hell out of you. Why? Because life is stressful, and unless you are dealing with a life threatening illness, none of it compares to facing extreme situations. By all means, do not put yourself into a precarious situation with out the proper precautions, but push your limits and watch your day today crap become small and easier to deal with.