Swimming is an experience of surrender and allowing. You give yourself to the water and it holds you in return. I used to be an instructor. My lessons were for endurance swimmers, the ones who wanted to go long distances, and find the soul and beauty of the sport.
The most common thing I noticed as a teacher was the way students battled the water. They came at it like an enemy to be conquered. They wanted to fight and win, each stroke becoming a determined fist that sent waves ceiling-high in a great calamity of motion.
No, No! Treat the water like a lover, I would tell them. Be gentle, caress it with your hands, merge, let it hold you. Men would blush at this analogy, taking a step back to assess the sanity of their instructor.
This is not lovemaking, this is a sport, they’d protest.
Oh, but it’s not so very different then entering the bed of a lover. You must give up the idea of fighting. Enter softly, stroke, glide and rest; find a rhythm for your breathing. You can swim for miles that way. Between each effort, after each stroke, rest with equal time. You’ll swim without tiring because rest and work will be equal. Move through the water like the spring equinox, where the day is equal to the night.
My lessons were not for the competitive spirit. If they longed to be first, be the biggest or the best, I was not their girl.
Swimming is a transcendent sport. It invites you to slip quietly below the surface into a world without corners. If you go tenderly and with acceptance, you can heal emotions, energize the body, cleanse the spirit and come back rested.
Water is a living breathing force deserving respect. If you can think of it that way, if you can enter it that way, then she will nurture you, then you can have a longstanding relationship. If you don’t understand these things, you will burn out quickly. She will spit you out. Just like life, one must find the quiet gentle places where we can rest and glide, if we are to support our efforts and survive. Thrashing about only brings exhaustion.