Guest Post: Mindfulness — In Buddhism and TI
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on December 24th, 2011

This is a guest post by Kwin Krisdaphong of Thailand. Kwin was inspired to learn TI by watching Shinji’s viral youtube video.  He taught himself TI with the aid of the 10-Lesson Self-Coached Workshop  DVD (creating his own sketches as learning aids – see below) then took a 1-day workshop with Coach Tang Siew Kwan in Singapore (pictured).

Kwin (L), Tang (C), Jerome (R) at Royal Singapore Yacht Club

1) How I practice meditation
Mindfulness is a skill I use in any kind of situation, but especially in stressful situations.  Mindfulness is a difficult habit to acquire in normal living, where we encounter so many distractions. At my first training, I started with one day and night in the temple. My master monk brought me to an empty room as shown in the photo. There is no phone, nothing to read, nothing to take your mind away from your own thoughts.

Someone leaves food at the door. I’ve been instructed that I’m free to do anything in that space – sitting, walking, cleaning, lying down — as long as I stay mindful, noticing my breath, my movements, my thoughts and feelings. The purpose of going to the practice room is that it’s easier to concentrate there than outside where there are so many distractions. My reason for being there is to train myself to just observe my thinking without judging it.
We hope that when we return ‘outside’ – with all its distractions – we are a bit more able to stay in the present moment. I spend a day at the temple once or twice a year. My wife sometimes stays for up to week.

Becoming a monk is the next step. As a monk you’re sheltered from external concerns. There are no bills to pay and thus no need for money. You receive one meal a day then return to practice. Monks train to stay present in every single moment throughout the day – walking, siting, eating, or performing chores – our main duty is to remain mindful.

2) Measuring improvement in Mindfulness
Continuous improvement is a goal in meditation training, just as in TI training. In TI, rather than focus on how far or fast we swim, we focus on how easily we can move through the water.  In mindfulness practice, our goal is not how long we can remain in meditation posture. Sitting longer isn’t better. Rather it’s about how readily we can let go of a distraction and return our consciousness back to the present moment. My teacher told me that a good measure of improvement is how long I hold any negative or stressful thought or emotion. From Buddha’s word we practice until we can calm a stressful emotion in an eyeblink.

3) TI Swimming / Mindfulness meditation
TI has taught me how to meditate while in motion. Because TI showed me how to swim with ease, I can now swim for long period, instead of one lap at a time. Swimming longer in a Buddhist sense isn’t about seeing how much distance I can cover, but rather to train myself to stay present with my stroke for longer periods. I’ve discovered that the rhythmic action of breathing, rotating, stroking, noticing – comes more easily to me than sitting in an empty room, watching my in-out breathing,  or even walking. The only limitation is that we usually cannot swim for as many hours as we can sit or walk.

4) Why I feel grateful for swimming
After I read your blog “Why I’m Grateful for Swimming My Slowest Time Ever” I felt fortunate I’m not a competitive swimmer. I never need to be concerned with speed or time. My focus is how long I can concentrate on my present movement while swimming without letting my consciousness diverge to any feeling or thought that is not about swimming.  It is a very satisfying feeling to seek harmony with the water and use constant focus to maintain it.  After I leave the pool my body feels healthy and my mind feels refreshed.  This is why I’m grateful for having discovered that swimming can be a form of meditation practice.

View more photos from Kwin’s period of monkhood

Kwin, 36, is a furniture and interior designer. He lives with his wife in Bangkok.

8 Responses to “Guest Post: Mindfulness — In Buddhism and TI”

  1. David Shen says:

    Wow! I love his sketches. He should publish those on a blog or in a book!

  2. Great idea. I’ll suggest it to him.

  3. luis says:

    Kim i am amateur swimmer.58, and i noticed if i forget the fast. And only focuss on to have a rithmic breath i sswim better. I forget debts. Stress. Troubles. I only swim and feel peace. Thanks for sharing yor experience.

  4. Nui says:

    Khun (meaning Mr. in Thai) Kwin, I’m glad you broke the code. Your sketches simplify the body-line visualization well.

    You gave me some push for another TI try. I was born in Thailand and had swimming experience at the level where I would not sink in a small canal. While living in the US, swimming had never come to my brain until I saw Mr. Shinji’s youtube video. I thereafter bought TI DVD training and went to a workshop 2 years ago, and began to try to learn. Unfortunately, I did not make any substantial progess. My lower part of the body sank and the air in lungs kept on decreasing after I swam for only 25 yards. It appears the fitness should not be my problem since I have been exercising 5-6 days a week – playing soccer, running, and training Americans in my town Muay Thai. I knew I then stepped into the uncomfort zone dealing with the TI playground.

    Anyhow, I am now getting excited again about the TI training. I’m ready to play the DVD training for the first time this Sunday morning after a year of ignoring it. I also plan to go to the Y in my town this afternoon to begin the second round of TI try in the lap pool. Pray for me!

    Last, I agree with you on the meditation issue. Even with any other sports, focusing on self is my first priority. If I do good with that, I can then take care of anything else surrounding me with ease.

    If I can master TI, it would be a miracle. And, if this is the case, I’m sure I can teach tons of people the TI since I had so many… many problems with it before. I’m hoping that someday I wil be able to help someone open the TI market in Thailand when I retire.

    Thanks for inspiring me.

  5. Kwin says:

    Thank you everyone for reading this article.
    Your kind comments also inspire to keep enjoy practicing. 🙂

    Nui, Glad to know you will back to TI again.
    I hope you can master this skill and promote TI to Thailand as you wise.

  6. Matt says:

    Kwin, I love your “active meditation” approach.
    I thought I was the only one who has a big challenge to sit down and meditate and having all these distractive thoughts like “I could be training at this time in stead of sitting here and focusing on my breath” :).
    Reading your post I realized I can meditate in water!
    Keep swimming and swinging everyone!:)

  7. Kwin says:

    Hi Matt

    Thanks for your feedback, I just saw it.
    Yes, you can meditate in water !
    Check for Buddha world Kayagata Sati.
    Focusing on breath practice is “Anapanasati”,
    while focusing on body movement is called “Kayagatasati”.
    (Sati = mindfulness)

    Both are major practices of Buddhism.
    You may see many people when they go for meditation practice mostly they will practice both sitting focus and walking focusing on foot step.
    Nothing wrong if we change from focusing on foot step to arm stroke.
    As long as our mind still there, we still on the way Buddha’s teachings.

    For me sitting and watching my breath is a lot more difficult, so I prefer practice in water.
    However my master said we cannot choose only way we like because we never know how and when you will die or facing difficult situation. Therefor we have to practice all the time to able to maintain mindfulness in any postures and any situations.

    Keep enjoy swimming !

  8. Tom says:

    Hello Folks. What you write resonates. I suffered a stroke in early 2011 partially knocking out speech and balance. My three brothers (all of them ironmen triathletes) came to me with Terry Laughlin’s book and I read it in a sitting. A week after I got out of the stroke unit I got into the pool.

    Last night I floated through a 5K swim in the pool in a time just short of 2 hours. I got out of the water mentally rested (albeit a little physically tired admittedly) and with more fluid speech. I firmly believe in the attitude of mindful concentration and engagement in the present moment that underpins the TI approach. It is heartening to see what I have intuitively understood so fully expressed in the above posting. Many thanks

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