Pleasure over Performance

 In General

My first initiation into Freediving was a self-taught attempt to hold my breath sitting on the bottom of a pool. (** learn with an Instructor and never Freedive alone). I found a little space in the place between the inhale and the exhale. It was like a tiny taste of wholeness that I could savour if I stayed still long enough.  Alone and immersed in a cocoon of quiet, I tapped into something beyond the understanding of my mind.

A gentle breath-hold became a sanctuary I could retreat to where my insecurities would vanish. Like my secret fortress in the woods as a child, it was a place where I could stop trying to fit into to an acceptable me and embrace my most magical self.

Then came the ego.

Inquisitive outsiders noticed and asked, ‘how long can you hold your breath?’ This naturally sparked my curiosity, so I grabbed a watch and spent the next few sessions holding my breath to the count of the clock.

The breath-hold turned from a meditation to a game, my way in became a way out. I lost that something that I couldn’t grasp or explain. I found something that I could measure and improve upon.

When I started to Freedive in the ocean, meters took over from time and depth became the quest. I couldn’t find that space, that peace, the freedom of life in between in the inhale and exhale. I was lost in an insatiable search for confidence through achievement.

At first it was the 40 meter mark, to qualify as an Instructor. This depth loomed over me, triggered self-doubt and stained all my dives with striving. The push was strong, I HAD to dive to 40 meters to be ‘good enough’. Eventually, I made it and I started to teach Freediving and it was then that I noticed my students were having an amazing experience of simply being, on one breath. Sometimes our students are our greatest teachers. They reminded me that I was missing the whole point.

Thus began my journey into diving from the heart. I pulled the meters back and started fresh, with the primary intention of diving for pleasure. My mantra was ‘Do it for the love’.

Flash forward through three years of teaching Freediving full time, and the competitive scene sparked my curiosity. OK, honestly, it was the travel and time off that interested me. I shuddered at the idea of diving in public or failing in public but I really wanted to go to Greece so I decided to sign up for my first competition.

There it was again, that old familiar insatiable drive. Ego. Striving. Trying. Fear. Insecurity. I was competing in the “I am not good enough” game, purely with myself. I believed that if I dove deeper, if I performed better, I would feel better.

Sound familiar? ‘If I do this, then I will be happy. If I do more, then I will be satisfied. If I dive deeper, then I will be good enough.’ I had it all backwards.

The epiphany, the ah-hah moment came when I meditated on how I really wanted to feel.

Joy, pleasure, freedom, laughter, community, love, play, connection, patience, passion, enthusiasm, energetic, alive.

I devoted my diving to nurturing these qualities. I wondered, what would it look like to dive for joy? I might swim down with an inner smile, feeling the bounce of my kicks and the ocean on my face. What would diving for pleasure look like? Melting into the freefall without any expectation of a ‘target depth’. What would connection look like? Diving honestly. Holding back when my body requests rest. Going for it when it feels good.

Simple and accessible- right?

A previous goal would have been to increase my performance, now, it is to increase my pleasure potential.

How do I know that I am not turning into a lazy hedonist who will never amount to anything because all I want is to feel good? Because the evolution of the soul requires a bit of grit, integrity and follow through. It teaches us to ask for and offer forgiveness, to be grateful and gracious, to consider our impact on the environment and our neighbours… and we all know that’s not lazy or easy work.

Now, you could say that my “performances” have improved. Yes, I dive deeper, but that’s no longer how I measure my success. I have a new gauge for fulfilment: Am I in alignment with myself? Do I feel good before, during and after? Do I enjoy the process? Does it help me connect to myself and others?

This is an ongoing practice that I am willing to participate it. I am not ‘giving up’ or ‘settling’, I am simply accepting and appreciating my capacity to be all that I AM and it feels really good.

Do you struggle with performance and pleasure? Do you ever find yourself in the ‘I am not good enough, yet, game?’ Join the discussion in the comments section below. How do you know when you are in alignment with yourself? How do you feel when you are not? 

Here’s to goals with soul, self-love and celebrating that we are enough!

Love your fellow pleasure seeker on the path,


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Showing 5 comments
  • Lily

    I love this post, Kate! And it comes at exactly the right time on my FB wall (aren’t we all weirdly connected uh?!), as I’m just slowly coming out of a few weeks of battling through all these stages… I already knew this before but it’s now getting really more and more obvious: the key to performance is pleasure.
    When my head is in a negative place on a personal level, when I self-criticise, when I compare myself to others and feel like I’m not good enough, not diving as deep as I “should”, my dives usually don’t go well, I turn early. The last few weeks were just like that. So the last few days I decided to go back to meditation, focusing on the present moment, stop looking back to the past or worrying about the future, focus on myself and not on what others are doing, on what I have achieved and what I’m grateful for, and not on what I’m missing in my life or feel I should have done by now. I’ve also dug up some of the books that usually help me in that process (I often go back to “The power of now” and “The Celestine Prophecy”), knowing that I am perfect the way I am, that my life is perfect and exactly as it should be right now, learning again to trust life, to have fun with it, to go with the flow, and learning all over again (and again, and again) how to love myself. In training, I started going in the water without any plan, and decide 5mins before a dive which discipline and depth I will attempt just according to how I feel and what I feel like doing on that particular moment, focusing on pleasure, enjoying the sensations during the dive. And well, I started performing better, and even if the numbers themselves are still far from what I’m capable of, at least I complete my dives, and most importantly, I enjoy them!
    So yeah, 100% behind you on that post, and will do my very best to always stay in that frame of mind, or at least to remind myself to get back to it if I ever stray again 🙂
    Big hugs xx

    • katemiddleton

      Lily- I love your insight and totally relate to all of those experiences and I love knowing more about what helps you go home to the heart. Books, meditation, time with yourself.. it’s all medicine! I’m pretty sure comparison kills pleasure and yet it’s such an ingrained pattern…at least it’s a good wake-up call to check if we are coming from love or fear.
      Let’s dive together soon! Mwuah I love you sister xo

  • emma

    YESSSSSSS!!!! I can relate 100% love your shares <3 xxxx

  • Jules Mackenzie

    As a freediver searching for my next metre depth your mediation insight holds great meaning. Think you may have changed my entire diving philosophy. Thank you.

  • Niels

    I have experienced exactly the same. Freediving is not about meters it is about letting go and just be. Thanks for reminding me:-)

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