Focusing on the Present Moment to Overcome Fear

Scuba diving triggered fear for Elizanda de la Sota, but she didn’t let that stop her. As told to Carsten Knox.

Jukka/Adobe Stock

In Tahiti 10 years ago, while at an introductory scuba diving lesson, I realized how much my fear could take over my experience of things. Still, scuba interested me, so I signed up for a certification course in my home city of Austin. After taking the written test, I suited

up, jumped in the pool, and felt a wash of panic. My heart was racing, and I was breathing hard.

Because I was breathing so fast, I found myself either floating to the surface of the pool or sinking to the bottom. I was totally frustrated. At one point I popped out of the water, ripped off

my mask, and threw it across the pool, screaming, “I’m sick of this—I hate this!”

I kept at it, though. My next test was staying underwater for 30 seconds, sharing my breathing apparatus with a partner. I went down and almost immediately my mask flooded with water. In that moment I realized I had a choice: go back to the surface and start all over, or tolerate it and graduate to the next lesson. I noticed that, yeah, while my mask was full of water, nothing else was threatening.…