How To Breath Like A Mermaid

In Hawaii there are a lot of people who are very good at being in the water, which often involves being involuntarily underwater for long periods of time. Last week I went surfing with a guy who had spent 17 years as a pro bodyboarder. Here’s a picture of him escaping death (photo credit):

When a man can hold his breath for almost 6 minutes, I immediately respect what he has to say on the subject. There’s a lot to practice to get to that level, but fundamentally there’s also a method anyone can use to significantly lower their heart rate (a skill I previously thought required becoming a monk and years of meditation on a mountain somewhere) and subsequently prolong breath-holding abilities.

They call it “breathing like a mermaid.” This method is employed by free divers hours before entering the water, as well as by professional surfers, bodyboarders, and probably the full gamut of aquatic athletes.

You do this:

Big, quick inhale (only a few seconds) followed by long exhale (a minute or more). Try it. I found it really difficult to exhale continuously for over a minute, but I could see how hours of breathing like this would train lung capacity and slow down my heart rate.

And now you know how mermaids breathe: quick in, long out.

The Genie That Doesn’t Grant Wishes

I was walking on the beach the other day and I tripped over something hard and metallic in the sand. Out popped a genie! The genie said, “Hi there! Before you get too excited, I’ll tell you how this works.”

The genie pulled out a set of cue cards and started reading.

“I am not a normal genie. I don’t grant wishes. What I do is, I put a spell on you that eliminates your ability to fail at one thing of your choosing. There’s no magic other than that. You still have to do all the work to accomplish whatever you set out to do. I just put a spell on you that makes it so you can’t quit.”

He put the cards away, into his pocket or something. I guess he had pants on.

“That doesn’t sound so great,” I said. Then followed with, “Are you sure that’s even magic?”

“That’s why nobody writes stories about me,” said the genie.

“Not true,” I said. “I’m gonna blog about this as soon as I get back to my Airbnb.”

The genie didn’t seem to care that I was going to blog about him. He began talking again.

“The first guy that discovered me asked that I put a spell on him so he would stop smoking. POOF! I put the spell on him. From that day forward, no matter how badly he wanted to smoke, my spell prevented him from being able to. It was very uncomfortable for him, and he was miserable for years. You see, he REALLY wanted to smoke. All day and all night his brain was screaming for him to have a cigarette. But the spell is permanent, he’ll never smoke again.”

“Shit eh.” I said, insightfully.

“Yup,” said the genie, crossing his arms and leaning back against a palm tree, which he drifted through.

I waited for him to drift back to my side of the palm tree. Then I said, “Okay let’s say I want a million dollars, and you put a spell on me. What next?”

“Just a sec while I look into the future,” said the genie. “AHA! I see it now… you would stop travelling and stop spending money on anything beyond the basics. You would live as cheaply as possible and put all of your extra money into low-risk, long-term investments earning 8% annually.”

The genie pulled a calculator out of his pants and mashed some keys. Then he said,”You would work as hard as you could in order to earn an extra $30,000/year to invest. After 17 years of this, you’d be a millionaire.”

“Crazy,” I said, trying to picture it all. “I don’t think I’m down to go through with all that.”

“Then don’t ask me to put the million-dollar spell on you,” replied the genie.

A moment passed, then I asked, “So you’re really not much use then, are you? People could do these things without your spells.”

“For sure,” said the genie. “But they generally don’t.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because many of the important things people want in life are really fucking hard to accomplish,” said the genie. “That’s why the other genies are so much more popular than I am. They let you skip the work!”

“Right.” I said. “Know where any of those guys are?”

“Nope,” said the genie.

“Shit.” I said, kicking at the sand.

More time passed and the genie started looking impatient.

“So what’ll it be?” asked the genie. “I’m gonna give you 10 more seconds then I’m outta here.”

“That seems abrupt!” I protested.

“7 seconds,” replied the genie.

“Um,” I said, scrambling for something good to not quit at, “I’d like to… ahhhhh… maybe I could… actually no, how about…”

“Time’s up!” said the genie. And he vanished.

I stayed behind for a considerable time afterwards, wondering what I should have said. But it’s a tough one.

What would YOU do if you knew you couldn’t fail?