Zen and the Art of Swimming

Please note: I am new and studying Buddhism, so observations are just my perspective, not necessarily THE  ‘truth’, just MY truth at this moment in time.
I have decided that Swimming and Zen are very similar. I assume that a good Zen Master would say they are one, as everything is one…I am new to Buddhism and not quite as new to swimming, being a ‘swimmer’ for three years still makes me a novice. As I was swimming the other day, I had a 1300 meter swim ahead and thinking(picture a little thought bubble floating over the pool, up and down), ‘Oh, man another 1250 meters to go, when will I get done with this?? 20 mintues??30 minutes??? One, two, three, BREATHE…. I have a so much to do when I get home….dishes, figure out groceries…one, two, BREATHE…then I need to fix that darned gate that keeps coming undone….one, two, three….how many laps left…damn…1200 meters…ugh! I am never going to get done with this! I wish I could swim faster. Why can’t I swim so smoothly like the other swimmers? And so on and so on. Then I refocused on my Form. Form in Swimming is PARAMOUNT!  You can somewhat muscle your way thru running and cycling without perfect form. You may never be a champion, but you can be very good. Steve Prefontaine is an example of someone who was a great runner, but did not have the perfect form(as his contemporaries and coaches might critique)….but he won on heart and guts! Swimming is totally different. If you try to muscle your way from one end of the pool to the other, you will drown from exhaustion! It is about every single finger. It is about feeling the water and the water feeling you….being one thing…water and you.

In order to improve my swimming technique and get better, I must be in total synch with my body and focus on every movement and how it feels in the water. Where is my arm entering the water? Where am I catching and pulling the water? How is my rotation in the water?  Does my head keep popping up when I breathe?  When I am focused on, ‘when I am going to be done? how many laps left?’ I can’t focus on that one motion that second. How does the water feel? Am I gliding or pounding my way thru the water?

Zen reminds me of the same thing. When I walk into the Zendo or into my home Zafu to meditate for 30 minutes or whatever, my mind has a hard time settling down and every now and again the monkeys are wondering are we done YET??!!!  I have so many things to do…maybe I will cut this short. My knee REALLY hurts now…OK, it’s SCREAMING at me….GET UP!!  Although there is no goal and no intent when I sit(no goal is the goal), when I… one, two, beathe….I can just focus on now and get that monkey back in line. One, two, breathe…my form is on spot and I am in the right position sitting….one, two, breathe…maybe someday I’ll actually make it to a count of twenty….I know…no goal, gliding with the Zazen!

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