On the second loop of the swim, crossing the width of the lake, I sighted forward. It then appeared to me I was in the middle of the lake, completely alone. At least that’s how I perceived it in that moment. I was not alone, at all. But for what seemed like forever, actually seconds, I felt a sense of vulnerability rise up in me. The yellow triangle turn buoy I was heading toward seemed very far. Very far. I felt the subtle but familiar tingling sensation begin to spread.
The mind was rearing it’s little head. Edging toward panic. It’s happened before, the first time about 20 years ago, in this very lake. One day while on a training swim it came on suddenly and unexpectedly. What I recall is fear, then sprinting for the shore-“what am I doing out here, way out here all alone, by myself. I have to get out of here, now!” Though I was actually less than 2 minutes swim to the shore, and years later when I assessed that moment again, I was in water shallow enough that I could have stood up! I had panicked. But in that particular moment I was to busy sprinting to the shore to escape, doing whatever to get to land. I had lost my sense of awareness and reason due to fear. I kinda checked out of rational thought. That moment has stayed with me. Now the fear of the fear or anxiety returning can rattle me.
Here I was, mid lake, on the edge of fear. Over the years, I have learned how to move through these moments. Nothing is physically happening to me that warrants any action. Physically I am perfectly fine but the mind is on the verge of taking over to create an unwarranted situation. My thoughts are going backward to that day “what if that happens again?”
What I have learned to do is get out of the head, the mind, by checking in with the physical body by taking a deep breath in, then exhaling through the nose. I recently read about the advice the Dalai Lama shared with a meditator who was experiencing fear while meditating. Hi’s Holiness told the fearful meditator to put his head in the lap of the Buddha.
Now, I thought of those words in this moment I felt that familiar tingle. I took a breath of air then as I put my face back into the water exhaled gently out my nose as I simultaneously leaned my body into the water. I felt it, the push back, the support, I could relax into the water, imagining I was resting my head in the lap of the Buddha.
Swimming, stroking, stroking stroking, breathe, my awareness meter turned up super high as I focused on my body movements and the breath. The more I focused on body and breath together, the more my mind settled, quieted. The water felt silky, smooth against my face, my body weightless, light, my movements fluid, rhythmic, easy, gentle matching my breath.
I swam on, strong, confident, conscious, competent.
Another blip processed.