A Subterranean dive

An artistic partnership

Artist Loup Lejeune and I partnered in a creative project that came to life under the underground vaults of the Maison des Arts in Schaerbeek, Brussels, this February 2023.

The resulting art piece was an underwater close up video sequence of the angular shapes of my shoulder blades and foot suspended in the water column. The film was projected on a large silicon membrane with electronic basses to give it a reptilian feel and start a conversation about the memory of our species past in line with the question of the way the earth’s resources are being exploited infinitely today.

More about this work here. 

Competition dives

Competitive freediving

Snapshots from the Freedom depth competiton in Cyprus. Here above: after surfacing from one of my competition dive and doing the protocol, holding the rope while waiting for the judges to deliver their verdict. On the right: the competition boat. Below, from left to right : surface breathe-up while the judges are counting down to the official top; emancipating from the surface; going deeper – in those incredibly clear Chypriot waters and their 40-meter visibility; then coming back up and being met by two of the safety freedivers on my way to the surface.

I joined because I wanted to learn and discover this new type of freediving. Freediving is still a relatively new sport in competition and the rules are evolving frequently in the direction of a safer practice. I learnt a lot – about competition protocols, coaching, freediving in currents, competition nerves (!), I witnessed blackouts and loss of motor control, and what felt like many miracles. I made new freediving friends, got accustomed with new freediving gear and loved every minute of rekindling with the sea. I was hoping to find more depth and wonderful sensations, and while I didn’t find the depth I got good enough sensations and emotions, including feeling satisfied with myself and included within the community. It was like a first time of freediving, feeling vulnerable and not really having a clue, yet moving forward and finding out with every step, or arm pull really, what’s in it for me and what’s not. I dived a little bit deeper on the training line than I did on the competition line. It was all so serious on that line, I figured I’d keep it light on the numbers to keep pressure at bay. Not sure it worked. But the dives were comfortable and I enjoyed the sensations 🙂

The days in between the dives were really quiet, as were the days my sinuses didn’t want to cooperate. So I took myself for wanders. Here are a few shots from my visit of the Larnaca fort: mosaics from the 4th century depicting sea life, an ancient clay lamp and a painting of the fort….

Teachings of the depths

Teachings of the depths

This weekend I had the opportunity to train for myself at the pool I normally spend time teaching at – Némo33. With a group of friends old and new, from Paris. It is one thing freediving, and another thing teaching freediving, and since July I have mostly spent time doing the latter while somewhat lazily letting the former rest on the training back burner, not really managing to connect with opportunities to take care of my own breath practice other than by taking care of life’s demanding responsibilities mindfully.

It was a great time finding a path in the full space of mind and body through lungs, heart and brain work. It had been a while since I’d experienced the depth’s pressure on my sternum, and it came with precious sensations. Focusing on the pleasure of the freediving practice in a safe setting and connecting with water soothed my thoughts and helped me work through what needed attention inside, by restoring movement in places that felt a little stuck and unattended. I was so tired from all the letting go I slipped into an effortless three-hour nap afterwards, in which I dreamt of an old friend Peter who I discussed the kelp forest and life with, while painstakingly, patiently pulling out one urchin’s needle at a time from the flesh of my thumb and gazing at the bleeding hole they left behind. It was profoundly restful and I woke up lighter.

To honour all of our personal and physical explorations of depths, I wanted to share these three photos of me taken by Fede at the end of my level 2 instructor training. Turning away from ‘normal’, or ‘routine’ life from time to time to familiarize ourselves with the darker regions in us fully and enjoy the precious teachings they have to offer can be daunting, and healing at the same time. Going deep demands returning to the light.