Originally Posted by terry
You are remarkably eloquent in a 2nd tongue. You write with more grace, suppleness and humor than many people for whom english is mother tongue.
Thanks for the kind words! I am just missing the ability for that 'edge'... but as it is part of our subject - it would be simply ego pleasing, I guess - as long as I seem to make myself understandable, what more to ask for.
I heard about that book 'Zen and the art of archery' more or less all my life, but never made it to read it. Actually when I was young there was another one, I don't know if it was originally a German book, and the title translates as: Zen and the art to maintain a motorbike.
I haven't read that one neither, but Zen with it's surprising, and sometimes absurd approach (the sound of one hand clapping) certainly does resonate in us Westerners with our highly intellectual approach that doesn't always brings us the satisfaction we expect from it.
But as I brought up that fuzziness, I would like to make a little contribution to the subject here.
Once I was skiing, back in my youth, in Canada in the Rockys. There was a small but nice ski area, and we would avoid the piste and make it out in the woods and search for a nice path down through the trees and meadows. I often went alone, I loved to do these kind of things alone. I know it can get dangerous (but I never really believed it or sensed it), I never was that kind of fearless guy, but I think I've always been a little lightheaded (ask my wife, she thinks I still am. Maybe better don't ask her...). But I loved to be alone out there, I also love to swim out somewhere on my own, although I very rarely have an opportunity for it.
So one day I climbed out a long way, it was late, it was obvious that no one would come that day any more, it was getting cold, I went too far and was absolutely at the end of my tether. But I had to go down, there was no choice. Spending the night out there was none, definitely.
It was an interesting ride. I remembered cutting out any unnecessary waste of energy, mentally and physically. I didn't care about a lot of things any more, I just reduced every movement to the least minimum effort, I didn't even spend a thought unnecessary. Interesting enough even thoughts I experienced as a waste of energy, I just tried to stay relaxed, mentally and physically, and made my way down. A couple of times I ended up wrapped around a tree and had to unwrap myself, that was an incredible effort in my condition.
I made it, yes, and it was quiet some experience. Just to see what was really necessary, mentally and physically, how much you can actually cut down in your effort and still function, that alone was worth it. And the fact that I was alone brought me quite some fear at times, but also sometimes a surprisingly strong feeling of comfort in my environment, which was nature. It felt a bit as if the nature was an extension of myself, and I felt completely at home in it at some points. Not always. This does not happen when I am not alone, then things happens in a different way. So I am still very much in favor of doing certain things on my own. Although I am really not that lightheaded any more, more for my wifes sake than for mine.
Do you understand what I mean? It is a little hard to describe.
But in short, there is - as Terry and eddiewouldgo mention here - something you can only
learn when you are in a fatigued state, and I might add, when you are alone it adds something to it, some sharpness, or clarity of experience I would call it. It stays better. And when you do your laps in the pool, although it is a different situation, but actually you are just with yourself.
The other thing I thought about is this: why swimming? Why try to make experiences like this:
Originally Posted by terry
The book says that the object of practice is to make a physical activity effortless both mentally and physically, until the body can execute complex movements without conscious control from the mind. At the highest level of skill we become egoless and non-self-conscious.
while swimming, in a pool or in open water?
I think there are good reasons. What we talk about, I think, is something we could call: the doer dissolves in the doing. Like the swimmer dissolves in the swimming, or the meditator dissolves in the meditation (I had a friend who was a strong smoker and used to say: when the smoker dissolves in the smoke...).
And I couldn't describe it more precise: it is when we become ego-less and non-self-conscious. Ego I would describe as a collection or bundle of characteristics, qualities, non-qualities, pecularities and so on that we think form our character. We refer to that as 'I'.
I also find it a precise description that we can experience this state only in movements that we can carry out without control, otherwise we have to put awareness on it, that keep us self-conscious.
So why swimming? I think it has several advantages (actually same advantages that archery has).
- It provides us with a protected environment. Nobody disturbs us, not in the lap and not in OW. There is like an unspoken set of rules: do your laps and you are left alone. Maybe not in the break in between, but while your are swimming - no problem. That helps us relax, I think.
- We are on our own - but we are still in the world, we are not cut off from our environment. That prevents us from feeling lonely.
- We move, we are not motionless. Being motionless is a challenge for our mind: it wants distraction. Swimming means, the mind has to do something. It has to coordinate very complex movements, check balance and so on. It is like given a banana to the monkey. The monkey is busy and will not disturb us.
And then it can happen: we loose those egoistic tendencies, we are just one with swimming, there is no separation between swimming and swimmer ( I am referring to other experiences as my swimming is not good enough for that (yet) ).
We cannot do it, it happens.
And it gives us interesting insights:
- we loose our sense of 'I' - but we still exist! we are complete, we don't miss anything, actually we are better off than before. That can teach us that our usual reference to 'I' or our ego, is a rather fake identity. That in turn can help us not to take ourselves too seriously.
- we experience profound peace and profound joy. I think that comes from becoming closer to who we really are, that is a joyful state.
- we get inspired to look for more of that.
So, Zen or the art of swimming.
I am still at Zen switches. Same word, other implication. Although - you never know...
Hope it was a contribution.