Guest Post: Pursuing Happiness with Total Immersion
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on January 26th, 2012

This is a guest post by TI Swimmer Sarah Crymes

Terry describes TI as “Swimming that Changes Your Life.” It has emphatically done this for me thanks to practices that encourage happiness.  Here’s how I experience this in my own TI practice:

1) I take a moment before beginning to commit to being present and mindful with no worries.  I focus on my breath and clear my mind of other thoughts. I begin my swim with simple focal points: head down, streamline position, balance while rotating. Then I focus on my breath. I swim into a moving meditation. Once my mind is clear and calm, I turn to back to stroke-oriented focal points, one at a time.  Being present with focused thoughts creates a sense of well-being and happiness for me. Open water swimming takes this to another level, since my meditative rhythm is never interrupted by a wall.

2) I attempt to accept imperfection and to be kind in my thoughts about myself. For example, my left arm recovery doesn’t feel as relaxed as my right and this creates pain in my body after very long swims.  So I remind myself that finding and fixing errors is the path to improvement. And I’m grateful to my left arm, shoulder and back for doing their best to overcome 30+ years of pre-TI muscle memory.

3) I practice continuous improvement with the faith that even when I can’t feel progress, it is happening. When I practiced martial arts, my Sensei told me not to do horse stance if I didn’t do it correctly, to avoid building bad muscle memory. In swimming, correct practice is even more challenging. When I concentrate on one focal point, I sometimes sense another part of my stroke reflecting my inattention to it. I remember to let that go and doone thing well at a time.

At the TI Open Water Experience at Maho Bay in the U.S. Virgin Islands last week, I learned how valuable having the option to breathe on both sides is when the water gets rough, so I’ve committed to learn bilateral breathing. I’m doing this with a beginner’s mind by revisiting balance and streamline drills, to make my stroke more balanced and stable when I breathe to an unfamiliar side.

4) PLAY: As a child, I experienced grace and joy in the water that I never felt on land. I’m exceedingly grateful that TI Practice enhances my ability to replicate this sense of grace and beauty.  I do my best to swim as a fish or a dolphin.   I think this is why I love swimming butterfly so much.

If you’d like to experience more joy, pleasure and happiness, please consider incorporating some of these ideas in your swimming practice:

· Before swimming, focus on your breath, visualize how you want to swim and commit to a mindful practice. Add breath-focus to the focal points included in your warm-up.

· Don’t worry, be happy. What’s the worst thing that can happen to you, especially in the pool? Not much except self-inflicted negative thoughts.

· Be kind to yourself in your thoughts

·         Use specific focal points—such as stable, ‘weightless’ head position–to enhance your sense of being present.

·         Have faith that you’re getting better when you practice with purpose—even when you feel you’ve plateaued.

·         Be playful. Channel the sense of freedom, joy and playfulness you felt in the water as a child, before swimming became competitive and goal oriented.

Sarah Crymes is from Atlanta, Georgia and travels for work to many southern states.  If you see me in your pool wearing a TI cap, please say hello.  Her passion is swimming outdoors, with as much grace and beauty as possible.  She’s been practicing TI for 10 years and recently attended a weekend workshop at Georgia Tech and the Maho Bay Open Water Swim Camp in St. John, USVI.  She’s seeking TI enthusiasts in Atlanta to join regular meet ups and to share TI with others.  To join an email list for this purpose, please send a note or contact me via LinkedIn.  Happy swimming! I hope our paths cross in or near water soon.


2 Responses to “Guest Post: Pursuing Happiness with Total Immersion”

  1. Christian says:

    I’m a clinical psychologist, and very often use ACT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, in my work where mindfullness is a central tool. A LOT of what you have just written apply to ACT, and after starting to swim TI myself, I’ve become more and more aware of these similarities.

    I wonder if I could start a swimming therapy group… 🙂

  2. Sarah,
    I enjoyed reading your guest blog. You expressed yourself so well that have I shared you post with both TI enthusiast and beginner swimmers. Your expression of how to approach swimming is so well said how could one not approach it being mindful!

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