I rediscovered the joy of swimming in the past year, and once, or twice a week, if the schedule works in my favor, I slipped into the warm waters of the health center near my home and began to swim back and forth across the length of the pool. I felt my aches and pains slowly dissolve as I repeated the coordinated movements of the front crawl-arms, head, breath, core and legs, kicking enough, but not too much. This rhythm of submerged whole body coordination was a pleasant meditative practice, and I grew to anticipate the opportunity with great attachment. I found myself imagining my body flowing through the warm water, freed from the disappointments of the day or the bitterness of winter. But then to my great disappointment, my pleasure became tinged by unpleasant feelings as I began to notice frustration, impatience, and judgment accompanying me on my swim. At times, when my stroke was labored, I became self critical, udging my imperfect skill. When other swimmers in the pool took up tok up space or swam too slow or too fast for my liking, I became impatient. And when I occasionally needed to give myself a “pep talk” to get to the pool, the frustration at the need to motivate myself stayed with me as I swam. I continued to struggle with this disappointment, longing for the easy flow, striving for the perfect swim each time I entered the pool.
One day a few weeks ago, during another imperfect swim, when the pool was crowded, and my shoulder ached in spite of the warm water and the long slow strokes, it dawned on me: “ I can simply go with the flow”.
Swimming isn’t a metaphor for anything. It is a consummate example of simple awareness, noticing- pleasant and unpleasant- not reacting- finding the imperfect beauty in each moment whether I’m underwater or not.