Reflections

Learning to swim, again

I’ve washed the chlorine from my hair, my skin. Quiet now, away from the chatter and the splashing. I had my first swimming lesson today and am feeling shaken up, a snowglobe upside down.

Before my body’s travails, I was an okay swimmer – at my peak I could do up to about 40 laps…nothing elegant or technically proficient, but I could move through water without thinking too much about it.

I’ve mentioned before that about 6 years ago, my body was completely undone by a terrible sequence of illness, severe stress and injuries. The pain alone was so intense I thought I would die. I had to relearn how to walk, climb stairs, move my arms and legs together, all the things I had taken for granted before.

It was frightening and there were times I wondered if I would ever be able to do things like take my son to school, go to a cafe for lunch, go into the city on a train or even drive a car.  Slowly, slowly I regained many normal movements and most of my strength.  I have never ‘been the same’ – of course not. Though I have come a long way since then, emotionally and physically. But I’m aware on so many levels that I’m still stuck in the past. I’ve not yet moved beyond the safe but now unsatisfactory limits of my known world.

So I’m shaking things up as best as I can; trying to write new maps of the possible for my body and mind. Learning to swim again is part of my process of conscious growth and becoming.

After today’s lesson I do feel emotionally shaken. I was surprised at how much trust and courage it took to get into the pool and ‘start again’. I am an absolute beginner once more. The heart-body memory of trust and safety has been erased. So the physical act of giving myself to the water, trusting that it would support me, was very challenging. Today’s lesson was spent learning to float and how to propel using different devices, working with my body as it is and accepting it as it is. Slowly, slowly. No rush, just persistence and curiosity.

How I wish I could abandon my many fears beside the pool of life and just dive in; if only I could re-write the map of my brain and my being so that I could be a person with deep trust in the shifting waters of life. Perhaps all it takes is the courage of making that decision not once but again and again. Perhaps each moment fear arises in me I can learn to be still, be curious, be open to fear without freezing or fleeing.

Apparently the word ‘courage’ derives from the Old French word ‘corage’, meaning of the heart and spirit. It reminds me of that man in Tiananmen Square, standing in front of a tank during the student uprising, and moving each way the tank moved. How present he must have been with fear in that moment. For me, his example is a reminder to find the strength to rest in the heart even when facing my deepest fears – failure, rejection, abandonment, physical pain.

I know that I can no longer accept my inaction in the face of fear. Standing and facing fear, may I not run away. May I look into the eye of fear and say: “I am here. You are here. I am here with you. We are not enemies. We are not separate. You are welcome to be here with me while I do what I must do.  Please, show me the places in myself that are not yet open to life as it is. Be patient with me while I relearn how to trust. Thank you for being here with me. We are not separate, but you do not define me.”

I’ve read somewhere that courage is the magic that turns dreams into reality. Today, may I have the courage to bring deep transformation into my life. May I surrender to life as it is, without resistance. May I accept what I cannot change, without the need to control things. As frightening and disorienting as it is, may I completely reorient my life towards magic and possibility. May I farewell the shores of certainty and enter the shifting waters of life, even if fear is my constant companion.

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