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Hunting for Moments of Pause and Presence

Hunting for moments of pause and presence | A patient floats in shallow water with a pole spear

Spearfishing out in open water, your gear consists of fins, a mask and snorkel, and a pole spear. The men of Voyage plumb the indigo depths of our offshore shallows, probing wrecks and reefs for their target species, with minimal gear and their wits. As our Director of Experiential puts it, when you get in the water you have to hope for the best, relinquish control, and take whatever the water gives you.

When you get in the water you have to hope for the best, relinquish control, and take whatever the water gives you

This type of hunting is about being aware, mindful, and deliberate—any dark nook, any crevice in a bit of structure, and any flash of silver at your periphery could be exactly what you’re looking for. Learning to spearfish teaches our men that their most important tool is their mind, and their key to success is using that tool wisely.

The purpose of these underwater expeditions is to help our men learn to turn away from reflexive reactions and result-oriented thinking. Instead they must learn to relax, to focus on the present moment, and to make the best choices possible to achieve their goal.

Holding tight to expectations makes it hard to focus on anything else

Our men will have vastly different experiences under the water, depending on whether they dive down weighted with expectations or not.

When a man dives down weighted with determination to catch and laser-focused on his mission, as soon as he spots a fish his reaction is immediate. His gaze zeroes in on the animal, shutting out all else, as his heart rate quickens and adrenaline courses through his veins. It’s a wildly exciting feeling in the moment, but as the current pushes him back and forth, and his quarry darts in and out of a reef, he burns out quickly. His brain registered excitement and anticipation of success but his body registered panic, and his window to shoot or return to the surface for a breath closes quickly.

Expectations create incredible pressure to perform successfully. Expectations also negate possibility. When you hold an idea in your mind of how something should go, as soon as you’re triggered by some stimulus you react without thinking, often to your own detriment.

Under the weight of anticipation he’ll have a much harder time setting up his shot—and with the pole spear he only gets one. The greater his expectation of success the more his chances of success are reduced, and he’ll waste precious time and energy returning to the surface for another breath or to reset his spear.

Letting go of expectations frees you up to focus on everything else

A man who approaches a challenge as being an experience with many possibilities, and who takes his time to settle into the water, will have an entirely different experience.

We teach our men to first just sit in the water, to focus on the feeling of the water around them, on the light that dances through the depths. We tell our men that their first dive is just to look, just to get a sense of what’s happening down below, and that no action is required yet.

When we teach our men breath-holds we’re showing them that even while your limbic system is going wild demanding air, you’ve actually got so much more time. The urge to return to the surface for a breath—that thoughtless reaction to what your limbic system identifies as an immediate threat—comes from the same place as the seemingly irresistible urges of our addictions.

Learning to control our breathing and suppress the urge to react doesn’t cure panic. Rather, it gives the men of Voyage access to something that’s been rare and precious in moments of extreme pressure: choices. When we give in to panic, all we can do is react. When we teach ourselves to see past the panic, other options come into focus. We can make decisions about how to act to achieve our goals and get what we want out of life.

As a man sinks into the water with his heartbeat is steady and his body relaxed, his field of vision widens as his eyes adjust to the underwater half-light. He becomes aware of the way the current changes beneath the surface, considers how far he’ll be able to strike with his spear. He takes stock of the speed and direction the baitfish are moving. He is committed only to observing, nothing else.

What first appears as a flash of light at the edge of his vision brings his whole attention around. A large school is minding its fishy business a mere 25 feet away. They don’t see him yet. If he needs, he can return to the surface for another breath before diving down deeper to better reach his quarry.

Result-oriented thinking plants the seeds of disappointment

Expectations create an impossible fantasy about how you’ll feel, who you’ll be and what life will look like once your goal is achieved. It’s also based on the assumption that everything will go perfectly.

The mindset needed to be successful under the water is calm, meditative, and mindful. We condition our men to take stock of both their body and their environment before deciding to act. Expectation becomes frenetic energy which clouds a man’s ability to see what’s around him. With too much focus on results or too much emphasis on the outcome, he can quickly lose control of himself because acts even before he can make a decision.

A moment of pause brings a thousand blurry details into focus, mutes panic, and invites better options into the mix

So much of the work our men do in the water is about letting go of expectations and outcomes, and instead focusing on connecting with and calming their mind and body.

The skills we endeavor to teach Voyage men are centered around slowing down, gathering more information, and evaluating the available options. Voyage men learn, both in group and in the water, that there is so much to be gained in that moment of pause.

Early recovery is going to be full of challenges and hard days. A young man might be overwhelmed by feelings, or someone may say or do something hurtful towards him, or he might have to face something stressful or triggering.

We teach our men how to connect with their bodies and to take stock of their thoughts, feelings and experiences. Slowing down in this way, even just for a moment, helps him to push past the panic and see better options beyond his instinctive reaction.

Our innovative and engaging experiential program teaches our men how to create their own lasting, meaningful and self-sustaining life of recovery. In a Voyage man’s lifelong journey of recovery, his time spent with us in the waters and wilds of South Florida teaches him important skills for how to cope using breathing techniques, how to turn to his brothers in a community-based support group like AA or NA, and how to take stock of situation before deciding how to act.

Learn more about Voyage and if it’s right for you or someone you love—call us or schedule a time for us to call you (772) 245-8345.


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