Swimming is not meditation. Meditation is not swimming. Though people say swimming is like meditation it is not. More accurate is to say we can swim with the mind of mediation. Which is to say we can swim with a focused, aware and directed mind.
While I swim, I take what I practice in meditation to apply it to the activity of swimming. Meditation is an exercise for the mind, mind training while still and quiet. The body is static.
Swimming is exercise for the body. We have to move to swim, it is a dynamic activity.
By sitting still, I have the space to realize how busy, crazy, chatty, jumbly, and constant my thoughts are. And, I know from the sitting practice that my racing thoughts tend to settle down-on some days-after a little bit of time. I can see the same in swimming. After a stretch of time swimming, a little warm-up time, my body settles down as my mind settles down.
The University pool where I swim has limited hours. Plus I drive 23 miles just to get to the pool, so I want to maximize my swim time. I feel rushed, or more accurately I rush myself to get there and get it in. Park the car, walk quarter of a mile, peel down the winter layers, stuff everything into the lockers, be sure I have swim gear-cap and goggles- and shower gear, towel and pool pass. The pre swim shower-state law-turns me into one big goose bump.
On a good day, I take a moment to sit on the pool edge to settle into this moment. Letting my body and mind settle back together. My mind has been a step ahead of my body. Just a few breathes. Then I Ease myself into the frigid pool water onto my tippy tippy toes. Brrr.
On the push off I let the chill of the water seep into my body, not resist it. By the time I get to the opposite wall I have forgotten about the water temp on my skin. I have moved on to counting my strokes, attending to my breathing, doing a little body scan. A few minutes in, I notice I am holding my breath. Exhale. Simple enough but I have to remind myself to do it!
And there it is. I recognize my mind is not on what I am doing. Breathing or exhaling becomes my focal point. I direct my mind to this one task, exhale. Then I forget, realize I am holding my breath again. Remind, forget, remind, forget. It is a practice which I keep gently bringing myself back to doing. It is an ongoing thing. Doesn’t seem like much in hindsight but sure in necessary!
Swimming is a practice, paying attention to the swimming is a practice. The mind and the body working together.