Meditative Swimming


The purpose of all meditation is to engage the dimension of mind such that the real nature of awareness essence reveals itself to the aspirant. Noting that the essential individuality is conducted in the co-creative flux conjoining the spark of pure energy at the center of the dimension of mind with the speck of pure matter serving as the center of the material body, we readily observe that the difference between these definitive poles of being is the difference between wave and particle. The mind, light, or pure energy, expresses itself throughout the living Universe as the pure radiance of wave emissions. And there is nowhere within the natural experiential realms of the normal human that embodies the dynamic and evanescent nature of the wave more self-evidently than the aquatic realm.

Given the value of swimming to the athletic, recreational, and fitness dimensions of human experience, our appreciation for water is none-the-less shallow if we fail to recognize, appreciate, and enjoy her nature as the most immediate realm within our normal experience to experience directly the mercurial, evanescent wave dimension, where the most essential sense of self of every member of the species with intellect surely is founded. Having recognized this potential, approaching water, familiar companion to our lives, as the medium for the teaching and learning of the precious perspectives of meditation may be somewhat strange. But the following simple preparative exercise may be the key for some to set the tone for the experience of meditative swimming. We have found that this contemplative preparation works best when a fair abundance of wave patterns are displaying on the surface of a body of water, whether a stream, a pond, a river, a lake, a bay, or the ocean. Finding the opportunity to appreciate the wave nature in a water surface during one of the rare states of extreme tranquility, or extreme tumult is approximately equally daunting. But careful, quiet observation of the surface of your favorite body of water when it is lively with wave activity can certainly prepare your mind for deeper explorations of the wave nature. Our intention is to let the wave nature into our eyes and allow the accompanying realization to transform our feelings and sense of being.

First we must seek to achieve a general sort of seeing of the wave actions on the surface. Avoiding the habitual tendency to focus upon a particular place or process upon the undulating surface, we look with eyes eager to embrace the totality of activity within the field of the water surface. It may require repeated attempts to wrench habitual perceptual patterns away, for instance, from the watching a particular wave rise up, curl, break, and wash the sand. You wish to see the overall pattern of the dance of the waves so your focus must not be particular. Later, once you have achieved this perspective, you may re-focus on more particular aspects of the total scene and see them with a renewed sense of their vitality and integrity with the overall wave process of the water. Thus you may be looking at a rippling section of a river or stream and enjoy, passively, how the waves are both stationary and full of fluidity; you may look at waves approaching the ocean’s shore with a detached focus until the rows of frothy edges dance in syncopation; you may gaze upon the surface of a pond or lake, until the waves, though clearly having a wind-driven direction, are seen also returning and radiating in every direction at once beneath the obvious pattern. Now you are sensing the real nature of wave and when you allow yourself to feel this, your total being may be inspired and uplifted by the subtlety and complexity of these wave patterns which certainly permeate every part of our human selves, our bodies being composed of seventy or so percent water. These waves run through not only every body of water, but every human body. Feel it. These same dynamic processes permeate in an approximately identical manner, every bit of the air in our atmosphere. Feel this. These same dynamic processes permeate in an approximately identical manner, every bit of soil, stone, and metal beneath our feet. Even dare to feel that. Waves convey the vibrant livingness of Life within all substance everywhere. When you truly experience that you are at unity with That Life, you will be abiding in the contemplative space, and you will have attained the goal of meditation. Dedicated swimmers have reported the experience of “diving into God” at particular times when their mind and heart were prepared to see and feel the living Beauty of their pool of water. So we are not doing anything particularly new with this meditation. We are trying to prepare ourselves more consciously so that these quintessential perspectives may become more available, more frequent, more profound, or perhaps just more meaningful, so they may enrich our experience of water and swimming, and beyond that, enrich our experience of Life in all dimensions of our experience.

Now, that refers only to the preparatory meditation. Meditative swimming enjoys the vessel of the swimming exercise as the portal to a more intimate communion with both the medium of water, and with Life Itself. In the following guidance, we refer to a swim experience within still or tranquil waters. The focus of the concentration is upon the ephemeral realm of interface where the water is actually contacting our skin, and we believe that tranquil waters facilitate clear perception of the nature of this contact, whereas tumultuous waves would make the continuity of the contact with the water more difficult to perceive and feel with. For similar reason, we recommend use of only those strokes that do not break the surface of the water to develop the appreciation for the communicative contact of our bodies with the water. Thus, the simple breast stroke, without the head bobbing underneath, as well as the alternate side breast stroke, with each arm reaching forward in alternation, as well as the side stroke, and the elementary backstroke are the strokes we recommend.

Even if you are a champion swimmer, trained for years to seek every bit of speed you might find with your powerful strokes, you will gain personal benefit, and quite possibly additional speed if you dare to approach the water as something profound and new that might share with you intimate knowledge of the flowing nature of existence. Water is the shining eye of the Mother of Life. Water is to feeling as Air is to intuition, Rock is to instinct, and Fire is to thought. There certainly is wisdom to be learned from the realm of Feeling.

So whether we dive or simply glide into the water to initiate our meditation, we must approach the water with a quiet, even a reverent mind . . . then, enter in. The intention is to feel every nuance, every innuendo of being that the water is communicating to our body. Touch her attentively. Move slowly, quietly. . . . even at the speed of Her most fundamental wave. Just feel the Water stroking you as you are stroking Her. Listen as well as see. When you move your arms and legs to propel, feel the contact at every increment of the stroke. Sounds simple but the real experience is of a complex of flows touching you in various places that move as you move. So you probably will find it necessary to focus just on the arms for a while then switch your focus to the legs. In direct contrast to speed training, you will find that the slower you go, the more you are learning. Breathe carefully, quietly, with the thought constantly focused upon noticing the touch of the Water as we move through Her.

Observe the difference in the contact with the water between the quiet, tranquil, meditative stroke, and the more jumbled feeling when you apply strong force to push your limbs through the water. Use the tranquil, then the forceful for a few strokes, then back to the tranquil, while maintaining the meticulous meditative focus throughout. You will see the more complete contact that communes your consciousness with the water during the tranquil meditative strokes. Take the opportunity to enjoy the meditative intimacy as a window through which you might appreciate the living nature of Water Herself. Remember you are a water baby, more than half your total mass composed of Water, and enjoy Her flowing embrace as you gaze serenely with all of your awareness at Her ancient, sweet, and wise beingness. Remember that the origins of your existence were within the embrace of the World’s primordial waters, as you evolved from single celled, to crawling and squirming, to gilled and finny experience, and finally to amphibious experience with increasingly specialized appendages, as you negotiated your way into the mysterious airy regions above the surface of our first home. Gaze not only with your eyes but with every nerve in your skin as you revel in the complexity, intimacy, and profundity of Her touch. Immerse yourself in a natural bliss of closeness with The Mother of all Life, as you enjoy quiet, flowing intimacy with Her Daughter, The Living Water.

Recognize the terminus of a session of bliss as your awareness emerges into the recognition of mundane things. Take this as an invitation to switch up your stroke from one to another, that is, from breast stroke to elementary back stroke or side stroke, or from one side to the other of the latter stroke. Emphasize careful, attentive, and precise dimensions of perception as you move your arms and legs through the water. Notice the points where the water is offering the resistance that propels you forward, and learn to maintain your slow and sure push right up to the moment in the stroke when her firm presence is no longer available. You are being attentively respectful of Her real nature, The Living Water, and your reward is not only the feeling of bliss but a greater sense of precision and efficiency that you will carry into every realm of your own life.

It will require some repeated and continuous effort to fix your focus upon noticing the feeling that the touch of the water is imparting to you. Feel your buoyancy. As another option to “switch up” your contemplation upon water, try switching to the treading water experience. Dance with Her. Feel the movement of your feet very consciously. Instead of the habitual, instinctive flutter kick, for instance, try a minute or a few minutes with bold and broad alternate kicks. Always the most important thing is to maintain continuous awareness of the feeling of contacting Her, the Water, mediatrix of All Life. Extend and fan your fingers. Extend and fan your toes. Do this with each of the strokes you employ. While treading water, modulate your contact with the medium to cause you to pirouette, first in one direction for a few rotations, then in the other direction for the same number of rotations. Feel Her. Enjoy Her. Alternate into bouncy style treading water, using widely spread and sudden kicks to lift you vertically with strong surges each time your legs pass each other at the vertical. Revel in your buoyancy. Notice continually the compliant but strong presence of the Water. Recognize Her in all your swimming, or dancing as a viable dimension of Mother Life, and dare to recognize that you are not only feeling but being felt when you are with Her.

Thus, by becoming more aware of your feeling, you become more alive within the water. And, eventually, the Water becomes more alive for you. Implicitly because the Water is at the Heart of the Life Process, the World is becoming more alive for you as well. Remember when you are out of the water, amidst family, friends, and neighbors, that each of us is a module of the flowing reality of Life. You may like to take your recollections of self-aware experience within Water and record them in some way, to appreciate how they are stimulating your experience of Life. Water can teach us if we are willing to feel with Her and listen. Flow. Enjoy.