Where wave after wave of bullshit smacked you in the face, knocked you off your feet, and by the time it seemed like your toes were barely touching the sand again and you were able to take a breath, you were sucked back under?
It’s pretty common for people to wind up on my therapy coach, whether in person or online, after a season of getting pummeled by the storms of life. In those moments, I am often transported back to my early childhood and the lessons I learned as my career soldier of a father taught my siblings and I how to swim.
Upon arrival at the base pool, my dad would make a beeline for the diving board in the deep end. I remember thinking that 12 ft. of water looked an awful lot like a place sharks might like to hang out (didn’t yet occur to me that sharks might not enjoy chlorine).
And before we could protest, he would scoop us up and jump off the end of that board, catapulting straight down toward the bottom of the pool with us in his arms. Feeling the rush of water followed by the most profound silence I have ever known was both exhilarating and terrifying. “All you have to do is hold your breath and kick,” he would say.
Despite my doubts, of course my dad was right; the instincts towards survival kicked in and we were back on the surface in no time. (My heart was still pounding at the thought of outracing the sharks however.)
LIFE SUSTAINING LESSONS
He believed, and I now agree, that before you can learn to swim on top of the water, it is wise to learn to navigate her depths. That way, whenever trouble comes, you are well-equipped to hold your own through the tempest.
This was quickly followed by another equally powerful lesson – how to float on our backs. Even the strongest of swimmers eventually tires, but if you learn to float, you can last indefinitely. I would spend hours each summer alternating playing underwater and then floating to re-charge. Over and over.
It still amazes me that floating…literally doing nothing…an act of surrender and trust…can be absolutely crucial for survival.
We see the truth of this life-sustaining duality mirrored all around us. There is a time for action and a time for rest. A time for analyzing and a time for feeling. Inhale and exhale. Wax and wane. Ebb and flow.
The key is staying mindful enough to know where you are at and what you most need in any given moment.
Consider asking yourself:
– Have I done all I can do about this situation?
– Am I seeking to distract myself from the task at hand or what I know I need to do out of fear or overwhelm?
– Could I use some time to re-charge?
– Am I feeling beat up by life’s circumstances, taken advantage of, or for granted by those around me?
– If I listened to my intuition, would I be more inclined to energetically dive deep or to float?
– Is it time for me to seek out new waters or perhaps even a new safe harbor?
Whenever I find myself longing to escape a situation, I remember this phrase that speaks to the spirit of the work I do with clients – “In order to rise above, you gotta go below.” There is no transcendence without exploring what’s hidden below the surface reasons for our distress.
Furthermore, although we may be scared at what we will find there (e.g., metaphorical sharks), speaking from both clinical and personal experience, it is much more likely that our fear of the thing is worse than the actual thing itself. As we sink into the depths, we leave the storms on the surface and reconnect with our Essence, the very intuition and higher cognitive functioning we need for recovery and strategy.
Dear One, isn’t it high time you quit struggling so ferociously against the current and found your unique flow?
Alexandra Covucci & I share more about the power of surrender and being in alignment with very practical tools to stay out of toxicity
And my favorite water meditation music by Pensacola’s very own Michael Brant DeMaria. Nominated for a Grammy! – “Ocean” (complete album playlist)
About the Author:
Tamara Powell, LMHC is a licensed therapist, university psychology instructor, and empowerment coach who believes life should be lived as a journey that is “anything but ordinary.”
Her work is specialized to help individuals break free from toxic cycles of distress, dysfunction, and dissatisfaction with life that are created when trying to live according to someone else’s rules. Only by living what she calls radical autonomy, can one obtain soul nourishing relationships and a sense of true life purpose and inner peace.
If you’re interested in working with her, either in person or online, you can learn more about her services here.