Where to begin? That is the question for me now, and for you! We live on a big rock that is mostly covered by this strange ancient substance from outer space that has found its way into the lowest places and been collected there. We don't exactly know where it all came from, but one likely theory is that it was violently given to us as Earth was pelted by comets and meteors of ice for billions of years.
This timeless substance knows you intimately. It held you suspended inside of it and protected you for your first nine months. Seventy five percent of what you are, is it. We call it water. Life on this planet spontaneously began in the water out of a bunch of chemical reactions, and here you are drinking it today. If you have forgotten about your first friend, it’s time you reacquaint yourself. Even as an older adult, it’s never too late to learn to swim.
Homo sapiens can be a water animal. Our innate aquatic propensity is hard wired into us all via our DNA, and is expressed as our body’s own intelligence that is independent of the mind. Obvious evidence of this fact is that all human babies demonstrate inborn instinctual reflexes that enable them to survive in the water for short periods of time. I am in no way advocating that you try this with your child, but when you put a baby underwater it instinctively holds its breath, slows its heart rate, diverts blood flow from its extremities to its core. It even shuts the glottis so that no water can flow down the trachea and into the lungs. It’s simply incredible what we are capable of.
The virtual reality of language can only go so far. It is impossible to explain to you with words how to swim; believe me, I have tried in vain. However, I will encourage you to avail yourself of the opportunity to learn to swim by attempting to convey below what it is like to experience the magic of water. I will use words clumsily to try to get beyond words. This won’t be easy, but perhaps I am in a unique position to attempt to do so by being on the cutting edge of human evolution as a member of the newest species, homo aquaticus.
Water called me back in very early on. I have been told that I could swim before I could walk and have gone on to not just survive, but thrive in the water as a professional swimmer and freediver. I have swum in oceans, rivers, lakes and pools all over the world, enjoyed swimming fast, and I have endured swimming far. I am no longer threatened by the deep and have dived on one breath of air down to one hundred and thirty eight feet below the surface, and held my breath underwater for over 4 minutes.
Water is simply extraterrestrial. The sensations of being in water are so drastically different from being on land that we simply can’t function in our normal way. This is where the difficulty lies. To move in water it is necessary to get horizontal instead of vertical. We must cast off everything that we think we know, and then in an act of total humility, give ourselves to the water. If it judges us to be sincere in our surrender, then it will support and hold us up.
This faith and trust in the water is known as buoyancy; it is the very life in us, the air in our lungs which then floats us. In the water you are the awareness of your breath. Just relax and trust it as it automatically gets held, or breathes when necessary, without you needing to overthink it in the same way that you are breathed when you forget to think about breathing. If you don’t surrender to the water, and attempt to fight it, and try to touch it by pressing down, so as to lift yourself up, you find in horror that you can’t. But, if you caress it gently, the water will allow you to feel it. Whisper sweet nothings to it, and as Dr. Masaru Emoto has shown, it will listen.
To swim is to dance with the water; rhythmically sliding and gliding through it with effortless grace, as beautiful silver mercurial bubbles of air swirl around you. In the water, you never feel wet. Water feels almost the way we sense the air when reach out from the window of a fast moving car. You don’t pull the water, but you anchor your hand and pull your body past it. The feeling of turning your legs into a motor that pushes you forward and through the water is analogous to having your own jet pack.
Swimming is the closest we can get to flying. Imagine being free from gravity by jumping up off the ground, gliding up into the sky, then shifting your weight by leaning to one side and starting to fly over there. Then when you eventually begin to slow down, you can move your arms and legs in certain patterns enabling you to hover, or fly wherever you want to go; up, down, left, right. The weightless feeling of pure freedom that comes from being able to travel in all directions is liberating for not just the body, but also the mind.
If you can’t swim yet, I implore you to learn as it could save your life. Return to your first home and enjoy the purest, most liberating thrill that nothing else in life can provide.