December 12 – Body Integration This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present? (Author: Patrick Reynolds)
I have a handful of memories to share: hiking on the trail, wonderful yoga classes, but the moment that comes to mind is the morning I jumped back into the pool this fall. You see, I’m a swimmer. I feel in some ways like at least half my childhood was spent in the water. I remember spending full days in the pool in the summer, when my mom had to drag me out of the pool and make me eat lunch. We would swim for hours – creating “routines” that looked something like synchronized swimming, racing and jumping, playing “marco polo” and having “underwater tea parties.” Some of my fondest memories are wet with chlorine-infused water. When I took sailing lessons, inevitably we would tip the boat, whether intentionally or not, and swim around, under, through the slow-moving sails hidden beneath the deep. At the beach: water fights and hours half-in half-out of the water making drip-sandcastles. But still, even now, I feel most at home in my body when I am fully immersed in the calm, blue, cocoon of water.
When I got a bit older I joined a swim team and began to race, but was never all that fast of a swimmer. I preferred in practice to bob and dive through the lanes, rather than propel myself back and forth. I quit for awhile because of this, but found myself back in the pool on the high school swim team, a team known for it’s state championships and awesome coach. I was still one of the slower swimmers on the team, but the camaraderie and team spirit kept me there, and I there I learned focus and determination, teamwork and endurance. And I still loved to swim.
I swam occasionally throughout adulthood, to keep in shape, but getting into the pool is arduous and takes real willpower, of which I sometimes lack. This fall when I threw my back out, I found myself back in the pool, trying to loosen up those back muscles and get some exercise. Swimming is like riding a bike, you never forget how. At the moment of that first splash l I am transported deep within myself, to a place that feels like coming home. I connect both with my joyful, playful self as well as that self who is strong and determined and ready to accomplish the most mountainous of tasks. Time underwater allows me space to move in and out of my thoughts freely, walking the fine line between being in the world and apart from it. Perhaps it is a little womb-like, too.
That day I dove back into the pool, I swam for about 45 minutes. My back was still very tender and I didn’t want to overdo it. I took breaks and watched the other swimmers in the pool, the way their limbs quietly glided through the smooth water, the way they splashed or moved their head to breathe. It was the first time in a long time that I didn’t feel jealousy about another’s swimming, only observed the way bodies move through water, knowing my own body had it’s own rhythm and flow. I felt what++ calls “body integration,” I guess, although I’m not sure I would’ve called it that had I not been asked to muse on this particular phrase. I felt like I had come back to a part of myself that I need to greet more often.
After the swim, a woman with whom I shared a lane started talking to me in the locker-room. “What kind of swimming did you use to do?” she asked. I found it an odd question. Is there more than one kind of swimming? I mentioned being on the swim team in high school, that I had swum freestyle but in the later years started racing in butterfly. “Oh.” she said, “Because you swim like a dolphin…”
I smiled. It felt like a very high compliment. Perhaps it explained so much of why I was never very fast, but always always felt at home as I dove and flipped and moved effortlessly through that wonderful, wet, stuff.