Hey guess what? You know I did in swimming yesterday? I treaded water, in the deep end, for a whole minute! You swimmers may think a minute isn’t long, but for me it was ages!
Treading water is essentially the thing that makes you sink or swim, so being able to do it feels like a pretty big deal. I’m definitely still trying to get the hang of breathing properly while swimming freestyle – I keep lifting my head up rather than turning my head to the side – but what I feel best about is not panicking while treading in deep water.
The philosophical concept from my yoga practice that I have been thinking about as I’ve worked on treading water is
tapas: the willingness to pursue intensity for the sake of transformation
What is learning to swim as an adult if not tapas? The key word for me here is willingness; this is a project I took on of my own volition and with the hope that by the end of the summer I would have undergone some sort of transformation.
There was a moment, soon after I first made it back and forth across the pool in deep water, where I realized that I could no longer say “I can’t swim.” That sounds great, right? If I’m honest, though, I have to acknowledge that there was a small, brief moment where I panicked at that thought. Because in some ways we cling to our afflictions, don’t we? Saying “I can’t swim” is something I’ve been doing for, you know, the better part of three decades. So it’s kind of a crazy to have to let go of that, and swim out into unknown territory.
There is one other phrase I hear my teachers say often in yoga. It’s a companion to tapas, and it’s one I take deep comfort in: