Getting Beneath the Surface
By Debra A. Hill, M.D.

I’ve been fascinated by the impact that Scuba Diving has on me and others for many years now. Being that I am a Psychiatrist I have loved getting beneath the surface of individual’s minds and lives long before I ever learned to scuba dive. But, scuba diving has opened up for me a different kind of “going beneath the surface”—one in which my travels beneath the surface of the sea allow me access to a subterranean aspect of myself that I would not have otherwise had an opportunity to visit and get to know.

I am a person with a highly active left and right brain—maybe left more than right at times, which can cause me to feel like there are so many things on my list to do. I then get caught up in the surface experience of life rather than what is driving all of these tasks—what is it behind the scenes or beneath the surface that causes me to generate all of these tasks on my list.

I begin to focus on ticking off the things on the list as if that is a measure of “something”—some kind of success or forward movement in life—without any regard as to whether or not I actually like doing the things on the list or find any meaning in the tasks on the list.

Alright, certainly there are those things that we all must get done, like grocery shop, balance our checkbook, pay the bills, and follow-up on miscellaneous calls having to do with maintaining a home and business. But, I’m talking about the other things on the list—why do I generate them, what do they mean—and do I even like what I’ve generated…

I actually had an epiphany today in regards to this. I chose not to go diving at the Aquarium of the Pacific specifically because I had an infection in the tip of my nose—it actually looked a lot like Rudolph or the Elephant man—something in between those two and I knew it was wiser to stay out of the fish exhibits which are naturally teeming with bacteria. So, I stayed home. I structured my morning to catch up on email, phone calls that I’d put off, and to go thru mail.

I was amazed with how the time flew!! All of a sudden it was to leave to go see a patient at my other office—yikes!! It seemed like such a day of frenzy, even though I just sat at my desk either on the computer, or on the phone. I dashed off to see my patient.

I enjoyed working, but then I had the sudden urge to escape. I called my husband and said, “I’ve got to get out of here and do something novel—I just feel trapped in my brain and body—what should we do tonight??” I then asked him how the dives went at the Aquarium this morning, which I usually would have participated in. He said we had so many divers that he asked to be briefed on a new exhibit and to dive that. I found myself imagining doing something new, novel—that’s what I needed. Then I realized that what was missing today was my experience of diving. Until I’d missed diving, I hadn’t realized how centering and anchoring it is for me each Friday morning.

I began to reflect on what it is that I love about it—that “going beneath the surface” of the water. I realized that it is one of the most integrative experiences that I engage in. When I slip beneath the surface of the water, I pass through a door, a window, and yet once underneath it is like a mirror too. It is a wordless world in which I connect with myself and others and the world around me in a very soulful way.

Certainly I have to use my thinking brain to read my gauges to monitor my depth, time, and air consumption. But, beyond that, I use my wordless mind, my right brain, my intuitive self to communicate through the water in primitive sign language to my dive buddies, and I use my own kinesthetic sense of myself in space as I am suspended in the water—like being suspended in air. I am weightless in this water world. I am part of the soup and yet an observer of the stuff in it. I love to look up as I ascend and see the Monet like images that are above the water showing through as they mix with the reflected images below. And, I emerge renewed, like being born again and cleansed of all the mental clutter that I entered the water with.

So, I missed that today and discovered how much I rely on it—and how fortunate I am to have the ability to actually go beneath the surface of the water to experience the physical and mental rebirth that it has to offer!

Thank you, Mother Ocean. You are gracious, soothing, restorative, and life giving!

I love you … and thanks for loving me too!

Debra A. Hill, MD
Producer, Ocean Video Productions


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