Some things are best learned early, but I never learned how to swim as a child. It is not easy; the secret is to relax and let go. I don’t know if I will ever swim like a fish but am pleased with being able to keep my head under the water or move forward across the pool. For me it would be such a freedom to float on the water and not be afraid.
Learning to swim contains a lot of lessons which can be applied to practice and to life. In many ways we can approach our practice as if we are there to correct or fix something. We often start from the deep-down assumption that there is something wrong with us, that we need to change or get away from. So we seek out personal development programmes or practice in order to change ourselves, to get away from what we are not at ease with. Or we can seek outside ourselves, in work, projects or relationships, for something that will complete us.
What swimming teaches is that somethings go better when we just relax and let go. We can stop striving. We can release the need to ‘control’ everything in our lives. When we tense up and try to fix things, we create a whole new set of problems. Often when we are stressed out, we attract more stress into our lives. We end up trying to make ourselves different than how we actually are. Freedom starts with accepting ourselves and letting go, trusting that the water, or that life. will actually support us. We can let go of our fears.
Sometimes, in order to let go we must “unlearn” many of the things we have spent our entire life learning and which have been reinforced in relationships and life’s experiences. From an early age, we have been conditioned to worry about our family, our relationships, our jobs, our security, and everything else in our lives that we want to improve. We are taught to compete and to overcome our anxiety by doing better and striving harder. Ironically, when we stop the worry, stress, and fear, we allow our natural rhythm to flow into us and we drop into our deep inner resources. The greatest truth we learn from practice is that we are already perfect, just as we are. Nothing needs to be added to us in this moment. We can just float and let go.