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Whale Shark Swim

April 20th, 2011 1 comment

Each year between June and September, the mighty Whale sharks migrate to the coast of Mexico near Isla Mujeres (north of Cancun), and this June I will venture out into open water to swim with them.  This grand aspiration began in February 2009 when I went on a spiritual journey guided by the wonderful Shaman Healer, Angela Prider, of the Heart Quest Healing Collective in East Vancouver.  With rhythmic drumming and her powerful intuition, she helped to connect me with my Power Animal, a Whale shark.  It was the first I had heard the name and her first bringing one up.  Since then, I have had a thirst to learn as much as I can about Whale sharks.  They are beautiful and mighty, gentle and elusive.  They have no natural predators and they also do not prey on other fish.  It is truly amazing that the largest fish in the ocean lives solely off plankton.  Sadly, humans have evolved to killing them to a state of vulnerability to endangerment; we are their only predator and also their greatest hope to replenishing their population by stopping the harmful fishing and finning practices that are devastating their numbers.

Over the next two months, I’ll be brushing up on my Spanish and swimming in preparation for the trip. I am not a confident swimmer in the pool so I think I’ll need to take lessons to prepare for the open water. Accompanying me will be Kayli, a fellow performing artist from Kuala Lumpur and Viola, an architect from London, England. Thanks for visiting and I hope you’ll come back to hear more about how the preparation and the trip unfolds. TA!

Finding breathe, finding being

July 18th, 2009 No comments

Since I declared my learning to swim goal, I have a renewed commitment to spending time in and around the pool. I say ‘in and around’ the pool because while I go in at about 2pm and leave the locker room an hour later, I spend probably about 15 – 20 minutes of that time swimming; and even that may be a generous estimate.

Getting into the pool is not a problem. It’s breathing while I’m in it. Specifically, breathing with my face in the water. It looks really easy and effortless when I watch others doing their laps, and it’s great to observe so I can see what I’m working towards.

When I’m in, I’m thinking about all the ideal adjustments and this could be a part of my obstacle. When I’m following my thoughts, I am not following my breathe. And if there is anything I’ve learned in acting and voice classes…it is to allow the breathe to lead. Thoughts dictate, “breathe in, relax the neck, take it slow, 1 easy quiet stroke, twist to the side, look ahead, breath out, kick with soft knees, soft quiet stroke, turn head for a breath.” Breathe gives life to motion. Since I have a tendency to be ultra conscientious on proper technique as I’m learning, I just swim half a length of the pool and then turn around. Adding the fear factor of water depth that is beyond my vertical reach can be overwhelming, so easy-does-it as I warm-up my brain and nerves to do a lap.

After I reassure my body that I can, indeed, control my breathing in water, I go for one lap from one end to the other end. And I do this by telling myself, “Slow is good. You’ve done this before. And, if you panic in the deeper end, just flip onto your back and breath.” When I get to the other end, I usually stop and hang off the wall while catching my breath and then head back. It sounds very simple, perhaps, but it is actually really gratifying to make it from one end of the pool to the other end of the pool without an interruption of fear. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel fear in varying degrees as I’m moving along, it just means that I didn’t believe the fear and let it escalate, that time around. That is my version of being in the pool.

Being around the pool, that’s cool too. It’s kind of neat seeing how people move in the water and then when out of the water. So much focus is required while swimming that it is almost impossible to be watching other people while swimming. This makes it distinctly different from other activities like yoga, running, or any activity on land, basically. There is such a lovely lightness, it seems, when people are in the water that is peaceful. People seem to just be in their own movement. But when people get out of the water, there is a subtle to obvious shift that seems to indicate the return of the body image gremlins. If almost all of us are insecure about how our body appears, then essentially, we are just afraid of other people who are also incredibly insecure about the same thing.
“That’s silly!” my 4 year old neice would say.

Another great discovery in and around the pool is the usual peacefulness. I really appreciate that the pool is an indoor fitness environment without tv’s and monitors and loud music. Just my body moving in water….aaahhhh.

Categories: Learning, Swimming Tags:

A Reason to Blog: Learning to Swim

July 15th, 2009 No comments

To give this blog “a point”, I’ve become aware of the importance of having something to write about, other than my random thoughts day-to-day. So I’m going to attempt blogging with a focus. What happens if I write about learning how to swim?

My memory of swimming goes back to swimming lessons in the Tamitik Recreation Centre in Kitimat, BC. When I was younger, I was enrolled in many different physical extra-curricular activities and I enjoyed them all. Ballet, gymnastics, ice skating, and swimming were the most memorable. One year I was in gymnastics and swimming at the same time. That same year, I developed symptoms that were thought, by a team of doctors, to be a brain tumor. I spent a week or more at the BC Children’s Hospital and upon my return home, with no evidence of a tumor found, I was no longer permitted to engage in gymnastics because of the potential harm the tumbling might do (it was thought by the adults). It was sad to stop and especially because it was not my abilities that were preventing me from continuing on with swimming. I think I lost my confidence to be in the water after believing that I was not fit for physical exertion. Not all was lost, though.

I had learned as much as one does at the dolphin level (I think): water safety, breathing, the dog paddle, the back stroke and the front stroke when I was about 6 or 7. Now I’m 32 and beginning again. I started going to the pool in my gym in 2007, inspired by a friend. His fitness activity of choice is swimming and being that I was still strengthening my knee from earlier that year, I decided to try it. It felt a bit intimidating, but it helped a great deal to just do the aqua classes first, getting comfortable with being in the pool. I suppose the easiest way would have been to sign-up for swimming classes. I didn’t have the extra money to pay for lessons so I just went for it on my own and experimented. I have not gotten much better but I know that I have improved. I started doing the front crawl with my head above the water. The first time I did a lap, the lifeguard came over to me to ask if I was okay. I calmly said, “Yes.” She said, “Okay, I just wanted to be sure. You know it’s more difficult to swim with your head above water.” I laughed and replied, “Yes, I know. I’m just not comfortable swimming with my face in the water, yet.” So I went to the ‘multi-purpose’ area, shallow and wide, and just practiced putting my face in the water, going back to basics like blowing bubbles. It was a reminder that one can never be too advanced for the value of basics.

A couple of weeks ago, I took an ‘open water workshop’ with the total immersion coach at the YWCA. Peter was a fantastic teacher! I was pretty scared of looking like a fool and I succeeded, in my own mind at least, of looking like a fool. I don’t know what it is about a group of attractive adults practically naked all learning to do something that feels very complex and unnatural that just begs for some light dialogue. And conversation and eye contact come as easily there as it does while showering naked next to a stranger.

It was only an hour but we covered a lot of really effective techniques. My long-term goal is to be able to freedive in the ocean. A short-term goal to that end is to get through one session of Intro to Masters. I feel a little impatient that the next session doesn’t start until September. If I am still motivated in September to progress with swimming, and I hope I will be, it will be a good indication of the likelihood that I’ll stick with it. I have a tendency to distract myself with so many exciting possibilities that I lose sight of things begun.

I will post about my process of learning to swim here and perhaps in that process I will also learn something about writing.

Categories: Learning, Swimming Tags: