Be Like Water
text/ Yao Ting WU
Freediving is a sport that involves “diving to the bottom of the water with one breath until resurfacing”. As the oxygen in the blood will gradually drop during the dive, and both muscle and brain activity demands a lot of oxygen, staying calm and relaxed has become an essential practice for this sport.
To freedive, you have to go through several stages. Before descending into the water, you should stay above the surface to prepare for the breath-holding. When I relax my mind and slow the breathing, it feels like falling into a deep sleep. Therefore, at this time, I will consciously meditate and preview what to do next. Sometimes I will imagine myself in a comfortable and peaceful place. Then it’s time to take a deep breath, let the air fill your abdomen and chest, kick the fins, row your arms and dive into the water. After a series of movements, the water pressure will push in on the eardrum and must quickly be released. When achieving neutral buoyancy, kick the fins a few more times and tilt your pelvis slightly forward to strengthen the core muscles, allowing the body to enter a state of free fall due to negative buoyancy until reaching the predetermined depth. To ascend to the surface, you must slightly increase strength on the hips and legs to swim against the negative buoyancy. After exceeding the neutral buoyancy, you can slow down and let the positive buoyancy bring you back to the water surface. During these processes, many thoughts will come to your mind, such as longing to breathe, dread of death, fear of the unknown... However, to practice freediving is to let these thoughts come and go, like water. In this way, the world quiets down, and the turbulence in the world no longer causes ripples in the heart, only indescribable peace.
There is a saying in Tao Te Ching that “the supreme kindness is like water”, which refers to being selfless like water and nourishing all living beings on earth. In other words, being secluded, flexible and formless like water is the expression of kindness. Since there is no disturbance, there is no distress. To freedive, you must be like water. As for how to truly relax in various challenging situations? All you can do is let go. The negative emotions that arise during diving won’t disappear if you try to suppress them. Like no matter how thick the wall is, the new sprouts of plants will penetrate it. Let those emotions spring up, and then accept their existence. There is no need to hold on to a certain point. Allow the feelings to flow like water. When you are no longer obsessed with disturbances, you will find inner tranquility and fully relax the body and mind. For me, freediving is a way of practicing the “classic sayings” in life.
This solo exhibition mainly presents my psychological state and journey in freediving with figurative human body postures. The single human body resembles the loneliness of diving into the sea, and the mirrored plural bodies are the introspection between the will and the body. The works showcased also include different freediving styles, including no-fins, monofin, and bi-fins, or the movements used in diving, like hip kicks, duck dives, freefall, etc. These postures are my diving log, recording the perception and experiences brought by the environment, diving partners, and myself in each dive. I also combined two materials, pure gold foil and wood, to symbolize the state of mind when diving. Wood is an organic material that decays with time. It goes through the life cycle just like the human body, and needs to breathe and survive. On the other hand, gold is eternal, like our state of mind, which exists untainted and peaceful among a maze of thoughts.
After several years since I started to learn freediving, I’ve encountered many challenges—for instance, the global pandemic, accidental fractures, military service and other things. These twists and turns strike me one after another as the emotions that emerge during diving. I would feel tense and lost if I tried to fight against them toughly. Only when I am like water, following the flows of the waves softly, can I look after myself and find inner peace from every dive.