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Becoming A Thing That Swims

I’m noticing more and more, with myself and people I’m helping, that the idea of needing to move forward, to some destination, changes both how we are in water and the quality of our experience in it.

To become really natural in water, I have to give up the idea of getting anywhere, especially through the medium of the conventional strokes.

What seems to do me most good, and this is why I recommend it to everybody else, is floating underwater and letting things happen, seeing what movements emerge, without trying to impose coordination patterns on myself. Maybe I’ll go backwards, or stay in one place. Does air flow out without me controlling it, without me ‘doing’ anything to exhale?

When I demonstrate this to people, I tell myself, and them, that I’m not ‘swimming’, just floating about and moving my limbs. I’ll often move around in circles rather than straight lines.

And I often feel for those few moments like a thing that swims. It’s a brief entrance into another world, dream-like.

It occurs to me that this ‘non-swimming’ might be the closest I get to belonging in the water. A bit like a kid going swimming and being allowed to play. 

I find it ironic that what is conventionally thought of as ‘proper swimming’, the thing we strive for, the stuff we’ve been taught to do, just isn’t as free as that. Because somehow it is more about ‘me’, what I’m doing, my efforts and goals, than about really making a connection with the water. 

These days I don’t want to practise my stroke technique, get fitter, faster, stronger. I want to lose myself, or free myself, and become part of the water. Being, and moving, underwater is so different from being on dry land, I just want to appreciate that.

The water isn’t a place for striving.

In Alexander Technique work, when you give up your idea of getting out of a chair, something different, natural, spontaneous, happens. That’s the kind of experience I’m after in the pool, when I give up my idea of ‘swimming’.

Robert (from case study Gradual Progression to Good Enough) was back again this week, looking more comfortable in water than ever. He said on his last day, ‘These are more like water appreciation lessons than swimming lessons.’  Like in Alexander work, it’s really about learning what not to do, instead of learning what to do.

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