I’ve been swimming most of my life, and have loved it from the very beginning. I remember my first swimming lesson at around age 5, where we had to put our faces in the water and then turn our heads to the right to learn to breathe. The teacher pointed at me and said, “Yes! Everyone look at her! That’s how I want you to do it!” In that moment, the water and I merged into one, and a life-long love affair was born.
For most of my life, I went swimming for fun. I played in the water for hours as a child, and learned to dive in my teen years (discovering it was NOT a good idea to do a belly-flop off the high dive!), and then as an adult I left most of the playfulness behind. Until I got around my guy cousins or my brother. Then we would chase each other and splash and dunk one another until we were exhausted.
My uncle taught us all to water ski. One by one, we all learned how to hold onto the rope and be pulled up. We also learned WHEN to let go (very important, if you are heading toward a dock, like my brother did one disastrous day!).
And in one particular public park in Lafayette, Indiana, where my family originates, there is a delightful water slide. At family reunions, our entire family would spend hours playing together at that pool. Even my grandmother, who was in a wheelchair, would join us in the shallow end of the pool, and enjoy the water.
It wasn’t until several years ago that I even considered swimming as a form of exercise. Laps? Are you kidding me? Swimming was for play, not boring stuff like doing laps. And one day, my husband and I went to the UVA pool, and I began to swim. (There were lanes there, and serious swimmers.)
I discovered I loved it! I reconnected with my love of swimming, my adoration of the water itself. I loved how refreshed I felt after a swim, how clean and how flexible my body felt. And after a long day at the office, it was so healing for me. What a gift this discovery was!
When we moved to Florida, I discovered that our community pool is shaped like a flower, with a great big fountain in the middle. Laps? They were nowhere to be seen. I sniffed and refused to swim for awhile. However, the lure of the water called to me.
One day, I went back to the pool. I began to flirt with the water again. I played a bit and half-heartedly swam some laps. This is how it remained for quite some time.
Before I knew it, I wanted to swim. Every day. And I wanted to swim laps. Seriously. My lap count increased weekly. 10. 15. 22. 30. 33. (Could I make 44?) 40. Then, the magic number, 44.
Swimming has taught me some significant life lessons. (See if they apply to your own form of exercise or creative passion.)
1. Relax. You cannot float unless you relax.
2. Breathe. When you’re swimming, you’ve got to breathe. (“Well, DUH!” you say. Hang on, hear me out.) Part of being able to swim laps in particular is to be able to adapt your breath to your body’s needs. When you’re swimming faster and your heart is pumping harder, you need bigger breaths, and when you’re meandering across the pool, you can hold your breath longer. Well, when you’re in a situation where you’re anxious and stressed, what is the first thing your body needs? More breath. A deep breath. Several deep breaths.
3. Find your rhythm. Getting into your rhythm allows you to move into a space of surrender and peacefulness. And it leads you into #4, which is…
4. Be present in the moment. When you are present in the moment, you will be aware of the feeling of the water against your skin, your muscles moving, the sound of your breath blowing out under the water, the beauty of the sun and the water casting a light show on the bottom of the pool. It is in this space of peace and joy that co-creation occurs.
5. Be persistent. When you can’t find your rhythm (or don’t even know what that feels like), keep trying. Sometimes when I go, I am distracted and just cannot get into it (particularly if there are other people in the pool crossing in front of me). Go another day. Try again. You’ll get it.
6. Focus. This is related to my example of people crossing in front of me. When that happens, I find that I get irritated. “Don’t they know that I’m swimming here?” I think. Then I lose my breath and my rhythm. I’ve lost my focus. I have to consciously move them out of my mind, and refocus on my movement and my breath and the side of the pool that I’m heading to. Let other people do what they will, you pay attention to you and what you are doing.
7. Pay attention to where you are going (or, as my husband, the sage, put it, “Don’t bump into people”). Sometimes when I’m in the flow of the movement, I close my eyes as I swim. And sometimes when I do that, I run into the wall. Not good. Watch where you are going. And on a much larger scale, pay attention to what you are doing now, because it affects where you end up.
8. Pay attention to the details. What kind of kick am I using? Can I kick harder? How far am I reaching when I move my arms? Are my hands cupped all the time, even in the turns? Are my feet pointed? All of these details make a difference in efficiency as well as in how I feel when I’m done.
9. Challenge yourself. Can you go faster? Can you go longer? Can you try a different stroke? My favorite stroke is the Breast Stroke. I also love the American Crawl. However, I try out the Butterfly every now and then just because I like the challenge of it.
10. Try something new. When I learned to turn at the end of the lane, I learned to turn to the right. So, for years, I’ve always turned to the right. And it’s always felt a little strange to me for some reason. A few weeks ago, I decided to see what happened if I turned to the left. It felt so right, and it was easier, for whatever reason. Now, my turns are much more smooth and fluid. What have you been doing the same way just because you learned it that way? Can you think of doing it a little differently? (What is calling you to do it differently? That’s your first clue.)
11. Celebrate your accomplishments. That I’m swimming an hour each time I swim is an accomplishment! And when I made my goal of 44 laps I felt so proud! Today, I swam 15 of the laps faster than I’ve ever done it before. Celebrate! In celebrating, you are swimming (forgive the unintended pun) in the energy of lightness and love. This is the energy of Spirit itself!
12. Have fun! Life is meant to be fun. When you are having fun, you are vibrating in a feeling space of joy. And when you are vibrating in a feeling space of joy, you are then drawing to you – and creating – all kinds of wonderfulness.
Your assignment: Look at your own life. How are you learning these same lessons in the things you are doing? What one thing can you do differently today to move you toward your dreams?