A week into my amateur swim lap routine, I’m becoming better at getting from one side of the pool to the other without stopping—but still require “rests” with some frequency. Since my immediate goal in swimming is to stretch my back muscles and reduce pain, I like the notion of being “weightless.” One of the ways to feel weightless is to float on one’s back.
The problem is, I can float for a nanosecond and then I start to sink. When it comes to floating, I stink. Yes, I know that rhymes.
I thought of my father Frank this morning when I was in the pool. He was the master floater. He could float for 10-15 minute chunks. Most of the time I was with him in the water, we were at the beach. Salt water likely makes a person more buoyant, but I have a strong hunch that my Dad could have easily floated on his back in the Franklin Recreation Center’s pool as well. I wish I had paid more attention to Dad’s technique, inquired more about his secrets to success when it comes to floating. That would have proven wise.
So, I’m left to other means for researching best practices for floating. A quick Google search for “how to float in a pool” offered several hits ranging from pool floats at nursing homes, to toys that float, to whatever else floats your boat. There is a YouTube video as well that supposedly shows someone’s father teaching them how to float, but it’s only 27 seconds and I require at least 30 minutes in order to truly believe that the teacher has appeared for this ready student.
Beyond my floating aspirations this morning, I paid attention to the little waves that gently rippled across the water as I performed my somewhat dysfunctional breast stroke and my downright embarrassing freestyle. I heard myself breathing, and remembered a paragraph from Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now that used a water metaphor to describe the human being’s ultimate connection to a larger, divine consciousness. You are a wave in the ocean, Tolle writes—and yet, you are the ocean as well. It’s impossible to separate the wave from the ocean—or, in my case, from the pool—because they are part of the same essence.
And so I started imagining myself as simply swimming and floating in a large expanse of consciousness—not a separate substance or an artificial person-pool dualism, but sustained by the water that was both surrounding me and yet a part of me. Human life grows in water, develops in water, is sustained by water across its span of years.
Naturally, I am ever on the watch for additional applications of this imagery. When I read a book, is there really a reader-object duality—or are the words of the book simply that particular author’s expression of the text-clothed promptings from that collective divine consciousness that informs and inspires all living things? When I am having an interaction with another person at home, work or in the community, I am more cognizant of the reality that while this person and I have separate forms, we are deeply united in our shared essence of consciousness. And the comparisons could go on and on.
My Dad moved fully into that divine realm, so beyond human understanding, nearly five years ago. I still wish he could re-teach me how to float, as well as tell me many other things, but I take comfort knowing that his wisdom lives on in the eternal life found in every present moment; that nothing he said or did could ever be lost. As I wake up early again in a day or two to swim, I’ll find extra resiliency knowing that the man who taught me to swim is no longer right in front of me but an eternal spirit who helps sustain me. In water, and on dry land.