At noon today, it was exactly half way through 2018. I don’t know if that’s accurate because I didn’t figure it out myself or hear it from an expert, but rather one of my friends posted it on Facebook this morning. True or not, it got me thinking. Just like we often do for the new year or on one of the solstices, it offers the opportunity for reflection. It’s as good a time as any to consider what we’d like to relax, let go of, surrender, and what we’d like to invite, seek out, cultivate.
I shared this with the yoga class I taught this morning. I wasn’t off to a great start — when I got there the downstairs door was locked, and it’s been so long since I had to open that one, when put my key in and it didn’t work, I panicked and assumed I didn’t have the right key and wouldn’t be able to get in. I finally got some encouragement to try my key again, and it worked, reminded me that back when I used to teach a 7 am class and was the first one there, the key was kind of sticky sometimes. It worked out, but the confusion had gone on long enough that I felt frazzled, off center. For the first few minutes of class, I couldn’t find the right words, had to try really hard to put together what I was trying to communicate, but eventually I softened and relaxed and was able to connect with the truth of what I was teaching.
When you feel yourself tense up, allow yourself to relax and you might float. This was a realization I had last week during my swimming lesson. If you missed it, I am 50 years old and even though I took swimming lessons as a kid, I never really learned. I was bullied and learned how to be afraid of the water and of people judging the way I tried. This summer, I signed up for private lessons with a teacher who had the right mix of skill, kindness, and humor. Only five lessons in and I am swimming on my own. Still terrified a lot of the time, but trying.
In last week’s lesson, my teacher asked me to float, first on my belly and then on my back. I confessed to him I didn’t know how, hadn’t ever done it before on my own, at least not that I could remember. He gave me some simple instructions and encouragement, and I tried it. First, I leaned forward, letting my face go into the water and my legs reach out behind me. There was a moment when I was tipping and my feet were starting to float when I felt myself tense up, resisting what was happening. I wanted to quit, to put my feet back down and stand up. The instinct is old and deep and sticky to “save myself” when I feel myself going under and the water filling the space around me.
Instead, I relaxed and let go. I surrendered to the water and the way my body wanted to rise to the top and hover there. Next, I did the same on my back. Later, I was on my back kicking my feet and moving my arms, swimming the length of the pool. My ears where covered by the water and it was so quiet. Even though my limbs were moving, it felt like I was gliding along the top without any effort — floating. Unlike when I was on my belly, my nose and mouth were out of the water and I could breath easily and normally. I felt utterly safe and content.
I keep thinking how this applies to life in general. When something scary or even just uncomfortable is happening, I tense up, start to shut down, withdraw, and maybe even run away. To float, you have to breathe past that moment of resistance and relax instead. Soften, let go, surrender. It’s only then that you can know the truth of what’s on the other side. I keep looking for the other ways I do this – resist instead of relaxing – and wondering what I’ve been missing all those times I chose to run away instead of surrender.