Beware or be aware?
Go back to the first time you were going to swim. Whatever the age the first time you thought of entering the pool or ocean or lake or river — you hesitated — maybe you were too young and you dived in — but you probably took a moment to think about it.
You made sure you went into the shallow area first.
You tested the water — hot or cold? How did it feel?
You waited to see what would happen to the other who went in first.
Doubts assailed you — you wondered would you drown or float? What if you died and no one was there was save you? What if you embarrassed yourself? Could you trust the one saying “jump in, jump in”?
From the edge of the pool or the shoreline it looks all so easy and you think wow! This is really something – these swimmers and surfers they are having a great time — and then your doubts take over and you think you could not swim or surf like them — it must be a gift they have — but every swimmer and surfer will tell you it’s a learned skill.
Some of you might not even want to try because as much as you see the fun — you see the occasional fall and the going under water and coming up choking for breath…and you think, ‘they must be crazy — i’m not going to do that. I prefer to sit on the sidelines and watch, certainly seems safer than to engage’.
Water represents the emotional realm of who we are. We see the ease it holds but then we see the depth it carries with it. Tough life experiences shape our ability to take risks. Some of us create a safety net and we either steer clear of anything that might bring up those dark hidden memories within. Most of these memories carry the trauma of pain of some kind; and who wants to experience pain? So we might just play around but diving in, is where we draw the line. We seek safety in life; one that keeps us safe from experiencing the pain held within. However a true inner journey strips away at that safety net. We know this, we can sense it and so we are nervous and scared. We aren’t sure we want to do it — our mind tells us we won’t get out of it sane or alive. This journey can’t lead us anywhere or do anything good. The doubts cage us in like heavy snow on a driveway. We freeze ourselves to numbness, refusing to thaw to the space that will actually set us free. However you start your journey – whether you dived in or went in gradually or stayed for long on the sidelines till life pushed you in – you will at some point reach the frozen parts that need thawing.
You dip your foot in and out till you are ready to step in. Sometimes somebody pushes you into that pool and you sink in thinking, ’this is it; i’m done — goodbye life’.
Yet somehow you float and find yourself rising to the top — you are still in panic – you begin thrashing you head goes in and out of the water — unable to breathe properly — looking for the ground to stand on or the edge to hold onto…then eventually you do find it and you just sit there shellshocked by whats happened.
Thats how the journey is at times, you try out many things and then you might experience some incredible moments of emotional release or mental breakdowns and you might think you are never going to be ok again — this is just too tough and rough — you are not going to get out. The darkness fills you up and you cannot see how you will breathe through this or come out of this sane again and then one day you do — you rise to the top of that experience and you take your time to gather yourself and as shellshocked as you are you are also freer having gone through it.
But your fear has abated.
Thats the thing with fear — when you face it, its less powerful in reality than in your imagination. The thought of fear is greater than the experience of it.
You gather yourself and begin to enjoy the feeling this water gives you — this feeling of suspended lightness. You once again let go and try and this time the panic is not so strong and while you keep at the edge you still let go and then you feel and experience water — it immediately calms you down — it holds you and you begin to try some tricks in it — you splash around again. This time with a smile that keeps widening, you learn to splash without sinking. You float, you glide and you let go for a while.
You allow yourself to experience different aspects of the journey — you try something and it doesn’t work so you let it go — and you try another and you enjoy that and so you keep doing it till you get better or bored and then you move on — there are no real rules — you can be silly and have fun while you are at it
You might need a lot of instruction or you might take to it like a fish to water — then comes the skills and the tools you need to learn to swim. You may have a favourite stroke or you might decide to just float on your back the entire time — whatever you like — you may decide to train really hard and master the strokes and the skills and try out all the tools available. You might need the best gear available or you might not — thats the part of YOU that comes into play — swimming can be learnt anytime anywhere in a lake, a pool, a rock pool, a river or the sea. You might seek adventure — to master the sea — or to just play around in it and splash all day long — but whatever your path and way you will find it refreshes you and rejuvenates you.
You decide you want to take this journey seriously — you want to be able to move across the water with skill and grace and so you begin to actively seek instruction — they may come through books, videos, people, magical signs; they will come and this time you will be looking out for them. As you do it more you begin to learn the style of the journey that calls out to you and that you enjoy. Just like swimming however if the skill or tool doesn’t help you move – then consider its worth to you. Is it helping you play and if thats what you desire great stay on, but if you are seeking a shift, a change a movement within then let it go and move on. See yourself improving in skill strength and understanding.
Someday you might train so hard that the end of the day your body aches — but its still a good ache — it’s an ache of accomplishment and you know its only going to make you stronger — so you rest — you take a break but eventually you will find that water again.
Effort is good but many of us are in such a rush to get somewhere even on the spiritual path that we are constantly looking digging seeking – fixing, healing, shifting, changing. There can be something like a spiritual burnout if you chase it more than allow it to flow. For on this journey when you chase something it will elude you more. There are days when it will feel like nothing is happening, allow things to come up when they must. When it does then you step up and put in your best efforts. Sometimes the flow will make you wait and if you do then suddenly one day you will wake up knowing a change has happened — for change is assured — it just might not happen when you want it to.
Some of us early on come across a wonderful supportive teacher — others might not. Be mindful of that. A teacher can bring out the magic of the teachings or create a block in you that lasts a lifetime.
We tend to flock to gurus — and yet we find that there are children who learn to swim by just showing up to the water; they dive in splash around play watch others see the techniques and apply them and sometimes develop their own…so it is not necessary to have a guru — yes having one might make the learning process of the skills easier. Yet it is better not to have a guru then to chase one that isn’t meant for you. Finally your life will teach you what you need to know — so there is no point in learning a truth which may have no relevance to you.
The skills involved connect all your three core areas of your persona — your emotional body how it is you respond to swimming is it fearful, joyful, cautious, nervous, panic; breath mastery of balance and rhythm and focus connected with your mental body; and physical body mastery of your ability to train and build up endurance and form.
So this will benefit you physically, mentally and emotionally.
Becoming a swimmer in life is a lot about navigation, of knowing when you can push yourself, of seeing your strength emerge, of experiencing the same skills in tougher areas and seas. It is about applying this highly important life skill to all areas of your life.
Look at how you approach the water. Do you like it? Is it something you go into willingly – Is fear attached to it? Are you someone who focusses a lot on the skills and the technique or are you someone who has learnt it and then allows yourself to learn more as you swim? Are you critical of your strokes — is it about the timing — is it about where you get? If swimming for you is a competitive sport — how does that feel for you — do you always feel tested in life — like you have to stand out and make a mark? Is swimming something you can also do for fun? The different bodies of water – do you prefer the safety of a pool, or the unknown of the sea? Reflect on the questions and see your answers and you might find yourself learning something about your true self.
This is an inner journey.