I read my brother Mike’s daily Facebook posts, on ancient Buddhist texts he has translated from Sanskrit and their relevance now.
Common themes are witnessing what is happening, ‘letting it happen’ and not ignorantly doing things because of failure to witness what is happening.
A quiet swimming pool is a great place to explore these things.
As someone who is comfortable in water but has balance issues, who went through the challenging process of a 3 year Alexander Technique training course (all about witnessing what is happening and saying ‘no’ to doing), and taught people to swim for 25 years, I think I can say this:
When we float face down, giving ourselves to the water, allowing all of our weight to be taken, even if this means we sink, things begin to happen. Not things we are doing but things that do themselves. As the water receives the weight of the head, the spine begins to lengthen, limbs detach themselves from the opening back, and air moves out of the body. Quietness is experienced, a kind of inner peace.
With this submission to the water as a foundation, we can explore movement. I tend to move very slowly, underwater, coming up for air only when necessary and taking time over this process. I say to myself, ‘I’m not “swimming”‘, (but continuing to wish to allow things to happen).
If I cross over into executing a “stroke”, ‘my stroke’, ‘my nice stroke?’, I enter dangerous territory in which I’m the (ignorant) “doer”.
The moment I try to improve my speed or technique, or keep up with the bloke in the next lane, I’m in the realm, as my brother would say, of ‘My will be done’. An attitude of ‘Thy will be done”, of letting things happen, and accepting one’s own insignificance, even lack of self-existence, is safer. If you’re learning to swim, it’s likely to be the same for you.
Here are some nice words from Deborah, who was with us for lessons this week, working along these lines:
“Honestly, the observation, intuition and imagination you both used to break down my defensive reaction to the water is miraculous. I am starting to understand the friendliness of contained still water and how it can benefit me. My husband is a diver and we have just been talking about how no outside worries can get through to you under water, me for moments and him for an hour! I am thinking of it as a friendly entity, he says it’s a “life force” that gives you energy and I think that’s true. The two of you plus the lovely little pool and accommodation equal something unique and so beneficial for people like me. Thank you for doing what you do.”