Monday, 23 November 2015

A mindful swim on a wint'ry morning

It's gotten colder. Quite a bit colder, actually.

I woke up to a fluttering of snow on Saturday. It was crisp and bright. Winter made her long awaited appearance. It was the most beautiful day to give my long winter coat (something of a favourite that rarely fails to attract remark amongst my generously complimentary friends) it's first outing of the season. 

I was attending a Study Day in central London meaning that I didn't manage to really greet the elements until Sunday. 

The pool beckoned mid morning, after the Club races had concluded, at which time I swam mostly toute seule. My swims follow something of a predictable routine: creature of habit that I am...

I get changed quickly and sit on the edge at the deep end, legs dangling, gauging the temperature whilst I adjust my swimming caps (I have been wearing two since the end of September; silicone for now, to be replaced with neoprene shortly). 

My toes alerted me to the fact that the temperature had dropped since Friday. Two clear nights, and you can feel the difference. The water was down by a whole 3 degrees.

Sunday's swim was a wonderfully invigorating 24 lengths with a water temperature hovering around 8°C and a Personal Best over the first mile (17 lengths in under 32 mins).  

Swimming is my meditation:  no two practices are the same.  No two lengths are identical.  I bring with me to the pool curiosity rather than expectation.  Each swim is a new swim.  I meet the pool and myself as though for the first time.  

I meditate
So that my mind
Cannot complicate
My life

~ Sri Chinmoy

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Letting Go: a life's work

Teaching with Sarah was something I had been looking forward to for some time... The idea came about a little while back, when Sarah returned from India having completed her yoga teacher training.

The theme came to us without much need for deliberation. Life has thrown plenty at both of us recently and we have found ourselves staying close (rather than clinging) to 'Let Go' as something of a mantra...

For me, teaching on a Saturday involves letting go of several things: my typical routine gets adjusted. The same is I know true for most who attend the weekend workshops: we let go of things in order to come along. Attending is a choice. Choice involves sacrifice. And that's worth acknowledging. 

The hatha based practice was just what I needed. My body welcomed it. And has reminded me of it since (thanks, Sarah!). Moving before sitting seems to work well for most bodies. 

Ajahn Chah's statement makes sense: 

If you let go a little, you will have a little peace
If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace

There is something about the sentiment that, intuitively, we know. Yet we forget. We get lost in the trance. We are forgetful. We need reminding.  Letting go is an ongoing process.  Every minute of every day.  

Come what may, we need to remember to let go.  Of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the so-so.  Whatever our experience has been, we need swiftly to let go of it, in order to suck up what life has in store for each of us, one day at a time, one hour at a time, one moment at a time, one breath at a time.  Every breath counts.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The winning is in the taking part

I felt like a winner. And the race hadn't even started.

I had turned up. And so, I felt justified in claiming a victory.

I have not swum competitively since childhood. My sister and I used to clear up at the South London Brownie Girl Guide Swimming Galas. It was all terribly serious. 

This morning couldn't have been more different. The competition was not in the adjoining lanes but upstairs - in my own head. Doubt began to creep in the moment I managed (finally) to open the attachment efficiently emailed to me by the Club Captains earlier this week. There appeared my name - down to swim in Races 1, 8 and 11.

Three times I met my greatest contender: the nagging doubt. It didn't stand a chance - submerged in 11° it soon dissipated. Biology took over, and I splashed my way across my first width doing an impression of the Butterfly.  I didn't feel like I managed to take flight but I did, somehow, make it across the pool.  The water level must have dropped given how much I kicked, and how much more I swallowed.  

It wasn't terribly impressive. I am happy to concede:  I am a distance swimmer. The length, I realise, is made of 3 distinct parts - a beginning, a middle and an end. I progress through them, and have developed supportive mindsets for each. Today was a day of several firsts - my first Sunday race. My first width. 

Dead Last Finish is greater than Did Not Finish which trumps Did Not Start
The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well
Pierre du Corboutin, Founder of the Olympic Games

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Remembrance: Mindfulness Underwater

This week served as a good reminded as to why I do what I do. I do what I do because I love it:  It really is as simple as that.

On speaking to someone (the thought of whose own exercise regimen makes me wince) I was slightly taken aback when he remarked upon my 'commitment' (in a respectful, slightly concerned manner) in response to my cold water swimming disclosure.

I don't swim because I have to...  I'm not 'training' for anything per se.  There are no upcoming events.  I'm not seeking to improve my time.  Or my endurance.  

I swim because I love it.

The only commitment I have made is to myself:  to do something everyday that makes me smile (whilst shivering).

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.  
It will not lead you astray.  ~ Rumi

Friday, 6 November 2015

Going with the flow to find our heart selves: Shattered yet still very much whole

The real privilege of any working week is to find 'flow'.  Flow does not, I think, lend itself to easy description; rather, it has a quality that you can feel, and I am delighted to say that I experience this most pleasant feeling at fairly regular intervals.  A facet of the flow I seek to describe is that sense that you are just exactly where you are meant to be...  

On retraining to become a therapist, I'm not sure I was able to imagine what it might feel like to practise as one.  I had, of course, spent a fair bit of time 'in the other chair' (the chair closest to the tissues) but this was to be just the beginning of this wondrous journey.

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, 

but anyone can start today and make a new ending 
~ Maria Robinson

In so much of my work I feel connected to my purpose.  I have the luxury of doing work I love.  My work and the way I work are much more than my job.  Should I come to regard my work simply as a job I do, or a role I perform, it will be time for me to reconsider what it is that I am doing. 

I am not has what happened to me,
I am what I choose to become
~ Carl Gustav Jung

A great many of us are wounded healers.  I have come to love my scars.  They are, today, an important reference point.  They are now something of which I may feel deservedly proud.  They tell a story, and today that story has meaning.

I am so much more than my story, and I believe wholeheartedly that every other being I meet along the way is more than theirs, too. 

Therein lies the healing, no?  

Making sense of our stories and finding ways to relate to them and not from them is, I feel, the privilege of a lifetime.  It remains a very great honour to walk alongside fellow storytellers and meet their courageous heart selves.  

The wound is the place 
where the Light enters you 
~ Rumi

Someone who bears the scars of injury 
may be the best qualified 
to speak into the 
lives of those currently afflicted 
~ Unknown