Negative Buoyancy

Negative Buoyancy

Did you know that there is a depth at which even the most cork-like of us will get a nonstop express ticket to Davy Jones’ locker? This concept, called negative buoyancy, was described to me one sunny afternoon in Baja California by a totally committed, wiry, tattooed superhuman of a free diver (hold breath, go deep, hope to resurface) who was all about sinking. Where the plummeting begins depends on body type, but like other laws of physics, no one escapes the law.

This had me wondering, besides aquatic environments, where else do we have thresholds where, once eclipsed, we sink to the bottom? These days, it seems like most of us are treading water like crazy to stay afloat. Consider; when was the last time you heard someone say “I’m so busy/slammed/overloaded right now”? I’ll wager it hasn’t been long.

With mobile devices tethered to us like anvils around our waists, leaky holes in our work-life boundaries and storms tossing the seas of our lives, we’re barely keeping our heads above water. If we want to stay on top, we have to consider how to manage the factors conspiring to drown us.

For instance, at what point does our attention succumb to the undertow of distraction? How many devices can we be using, conversations can we be involved in, or tasks can we be working on at once before we’re just basically in survival mode? We can tell ourselves that multitasking gets us through the choppy waters, but multitasking lowers our I.Q. and makes it harder and take longer to get anything done. Instead, try making a not-to-do list or working in focused burst to conserve energy and get things done efficiently.

What about drowning in social media and other screen generated distractions? It seems like we’re all simultaneously talking about how busy we are while at the same time spending an average of 12 hours a day engaged with digital media. How about making priorities, staying focused on completing them and limiting time spent dealing with distractions? With a little discipline, we’ll have more time to float around enjoying the water.

Learning to float takes effort. We have to train our brain to focus where we want and know how to keep it there. Meditation, physical activity and unplugged pursuits are all great ways to practice keeping our attention rapt and our efforts true.

In those moments when it feels like the buoyancy meter is going negative and you’re about to go deep, stop, take a deep breath, and identify what’s dragging you down. This will take practice, but unless we aspire to be free divers, learning how to keep our head above the waterline is well worth the effort.

 - Eli Shostak

Eli Shostak, Lecturer of Adventure Education at FLC

Eli is a Lecturer of Adventure Education at FLC with expertise in mindful leadership, expedition planning and leadership, and tons of experience leading others in finding the personal and interpersonal benefits of exploring wild spaces.