When are you in your element?
Our snorkeling guide was part fish. He was in his element.
Do you know when you’re in yours?
Off of the island of Ko Tao in southern Thailand, we all plopped into the warm waters, donned our masks, and pulled on our flippers. Once we poked our heads under the water level, we discovered an entirely different world. A different element.
When you’re in your element:
- Time flies: you have little or no concept of time and when you click back into reality, time has passed.
- Senses dim (and enhance): certain senses are dimmed (maybe you don’t hear what’s going on around you) but other senses are heightened (you might be able to see more clearly).
- Priorities shift: what only minutes previous was important might no longer have any value. Something new might have taken over the top positions.
Our fearless leader took a few slow breaths to relax his body. Then he took in a long, deep breath and went under. He then folded his body to a ninety-degree angle by pushing his head and arms under him and heading down into the deep. Once he was bent and slowly drifting under, he straightened his legs and the weight of that part of his body above him pushed him down even deeper and he went into a slow dive without paddling or kicking.
In my out-of-my-element perspective, he was a mermaid. Or, I suppose, a merman.
He dropped down slowly, plugging his nose every meter and pushing a little bit of air through his head to regulate his ears and air pressure in his head (as he explained that we also needed to do if we were to dive) and he dropped down deeper. I watched from my floating position above, my hands behind my back in what I can only describe as the closest humans are going to get to flying.
Like a dolphin, he then effortlessly floated around boulders and up close next to coral. Very respectful of the delicate living organisms, he was careful to not touch anything, but he got up close and personal and trained his camera on bright blue sea plants, waving orange beings, and bug-eyed trident fish.
Occasionally, he’d let out a little air and as he did, I realized that I had probably taken ten breaths in and out since he got to the bottom. I was so obviously out of my element, but I was enjoying watching him in his.
Sometimes, he found a rock to hold onto and with only a thumb and forefinger, he steadied himself and stayed unmoving for his movie shot in what I can only describe as a fish.
With a slight wave of his hand, he would then float over to another area with more delicacies of the deep and shot some more footage or just get up close to see it all with his own eyes. I breathed another fifteen or twenty times and forget that he had no air tanks.
One time he went upside down and backward so that he could look up and into a crevice without touching any coral around him. He was at once a ballerina, a gymnast, a fish, an astronaut, and a magician.
When are you in your element?
I had to focus my attention on my breath to keep it regular and smooth using the snorkel. Like with skiing, the more I tried hard to float without effort, the less things worked out. To keep my attention off of my trying to float helped me to float. I was clearly out of my element and happy to even be a visitor and spectator.
Do you know when you’re not in your element?
Good! That will help you understand when you are in yours.
Give me a keyboard and a blank page and I’m quickly creating a story or crafting an essay. Put me on a slow train and I’ll be one with the clickety-clack of the tracks.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Time: when does time fly for you? When do you not notice time passing and are sometimes shocked (or happily surprised) when you realize that so much time has gone by?
- Sense: “Dad? Dad!? Daaaaadddd!” Do you occasionally (unconsciously) block out some of your senses? You’re in your zone or your element and maybe you temporarily can’t hear … even when your son has something terribly important to share with you.
- Priority: I envision it as dust settling and what remains standing is what’s important. When that time is flying and your senses are on hold, what comes to mind? Where do your thoughts wander? What’s important to you during that time? What’s clear, pure, and real?
I’m a firm believer in the power of being in your element and getting the most bang for your buck, focusing on what’s working when you’re in your flow and what’s not. What naturally rises to the top and what sinks to the bottom. Learn from it and you learn about yourself and what’s working and what’s not.
Big secret? Do more of what’s working.