I got back in the water today.
I’ve been a swimmer all my life. A real one – you know, back and forth in a cement pool with timers and judges and a bunch of guys trying to beat you to the finish. That kind of swimmer…since I was 10. I strayed for awhile, but I’m back.
I’m certainly not 10 anymore, but I got back in the water this morning — speedo and all — and swam a warmup, short set and cool down…almost like the old days. As Hemingway would say…”It was good.”
I’ll always be a swimmer.
Because it was always more than just conditioning for me…more than just competition, too. I used to love to stay after evening workouts when everybody else had hit the showers. I was in the pool alone, the mist coming in and covering up the far end. There was a mystery and a solitude and a meditative rightness to it all. It was the same in the early mornings before school — peace, calm, clarity.
Of course there is something about swimming…the immersion in and movement through a liquid, flowing medium– even when working out. It draws the mind inward on itself, compels introspection and brings a focus (I believe) not achievable in any other experience. It has always (paradoxically) stimulated and calmed me at the same time. For me, swimming is and always has been essentially spiritual — a zen kind of thing.
The zen is what brought me back after high school, and then college, and then coaching. But you know, time and the world’s demands continually conspire to take you away from that which keeps you sane and grounded and…spiritual. After my coaching career ended, I seemed to have lost my zen.
Years later, I discovered open water (ocean, lakes, rivers) swimming and my zen returned, big time. There is nothing more spiritual than joining yourself — becoming one, if you will –with a natural force. I found ocean swimming in particular to be…totally exhilarating.
The point of this seemingly endless retro-scanning and mind-numbing nostalgia? It’s the zen, man.
We all have our zen. Some of us are more in touch with it than others, but we all have it. It is that thing…that pursuit…that process that is at once stimulating and calming. It is that thing we do that brings with it sanity and clarity and…transcendence.
OK. Back down to earth. Simple truth: Writing is like that. Writing (wait for the metaphor) is swimming – swimming in the imagination stream. For writers, writing is their zen — at least it better be. And because it is such, it should be pursued, embraced and put into action every day. And if you’re lucky enough to have two zen things in your life, there’s no excuse for not frolicking in the waves.
You may not all be writers out there, but you do have a zen thing. Everybody does. So find it. Re-discover it. Explore it. Immerse yourself in that which fulfills you, defines you, completes you.
Get back in the water.