Swimming – reflections on the water

Spiritual and religious associations with water are universal, and water has special associations with many faiths throughout the world. Water symbolizes the cleansing of the spirit as well as the body, and this symbolism has frequently been incorporated into religious rituals. Bathing in the holy water of the ancient river Ganges is a religious duty for Hindus. Similarly, there is a religious aspect to bathing in Judaism, which was inherited from the Christian ritual of baptism. Since the 19th century, Catholics in their millions have also made pilgrimages to the sanctified waters of Lourdes in France, and thousands of visitors marvel at the holy springs and the tranquil pools around the Japanese temples to Buddha in the ancient capital of Kyoto.

In the philosophies of Zen and the Tao, the image of moving water is used as a symbol of the flowing, constantly changing nature of life. Water is gentle and yielding, yet possesses tremendous strength. ‘Nothing in this world is softer than water, but nothing is better at overcoming the hard.’ Water and its properties are profoundly connected with notions of balance and harmony. The words of the Tao reflect Oriental ideas of Yin and Yang, the complementary poles of cosmic force which interact to create the equilibrium of existence. For human beings, awareness of how to bring these elements into balance in our own lives is the key to health and happiness.

Awareness of ourselves, of the way we stand, move, and breathe, has led us to explore how we relate to our bodies and to the water, and how we choose to lead our lives. We have suggested that the art of swimming can be a source of self-discovery, personal growth, and empowerment. A new approach to the water -one which teaches us to be aware of ourselves, to relate it to our organic wholeness and balance, to be at home in the water, to understand and make use of its generous properties, to discover its intimate connections with the rhythms of our life – awakens in us the possibility of a wealth of hitherto inexperienced sensation, and the discovery of unprecedented, indefinable joy.

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