Mala: the quiet water.

As I stand waist deep at the shallow end of the pool, Joe hovers on the pool deck patiently indulging my continually refined stalling techniques. No longer confined to my San Francisco Bay swims at the Dolphin Club, I’ve expertly managed to transfer my delay of swimming to the pool. Already my second workout of the morning, though tired, I know once I get started I’ll love it. I’ve never regretted a swim.

That being said, perhaps my stall has something to do with each time I swim having to go inside my head, alone and isolated with my thoughts in a box filled with water. Devoid of the distractions of sound, movement, color and smell.  I am forced to reckon with the contents of my brain.

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As I move through the water, I become aware of how my body feels. The warm chlorinated water feels hot against my face and I can’t help but worry about my cold water acclimation. I do this every day. Ask Joe. I hear the muffled gurgle of the water through my earplugs. I settled in.

With flip turns now fully incorporated (albeit still a work in progress) into my pool repertoire, I relish those remaining few seconds in a lap as I glide seemingly effortlessly towards the wall before turning my body over itself and pushing off the wall for yet another lap. I feel like a trained seal, except with each successful turn of my body my reward is not a smelly fish but a tasty morsel of success. It’s exhilarating. The more I practice, the more I enjoy what was once the bane of my pool swimming experience.

Whenever I swim for long periods in a pool I carefully count each and every lap. I’m a little stringent about this counting process. If my mind wanders off track and I forget which lap I’m on, I revert back to the previous known lap. It keeps me honest I guess.

Today, as I swim, a comforting inner peace blankets my mind as I drift melodically back and forth between the current lap number and a random thought. Each time my face gazes down on the long black line on the bottom of the pool, I count the lap number, as a Buddhist counts beads during prayer. Then, as my head turns to take a breath, I allow a new thought to manifest for the briefest of moments before it disappears into the depths of the pool. With my head once again gazing at the black line below, I refocus my attention on the mantra.

As my mantra intensifies, so does the metronomic rhythm in my head. Shifting back and forth between thought and lap number, the meditation evolves.

Today I found that sweet spot. That moment of Zen where the jarring noise of the outside world is muffled – ever so gently - by the quiet water.