There is one quiet region left on this world. One quiet residence where there are no telephones, no information tickers , no instantaneous words or even music. It’s the one place where you can have not just quiet but utter stillnes and meditative pacify, even if those occasions don’t come to you naturally.
That place is underwater.
This morning, I moved a mile and a half down to the lake near my hotel. I left my shoes and phone and sunglasses on the dock and eased myself into the ocean. It was barely 8 am. The liquid was only warm enough to be delightful, merely cold enough to be invigorating and a few seconds later, I was enveloped in it, swimming along the surface.
What was on my psyche as this happened? Good-for-nothing. It was still. Every few minutes I would switch from freestyle to breaststroke in order to scan for barges, but otherwise there was not a care to consider, a situation to worry about. Then, as I get out towards the middle, I switched to backstroke and watched the sunup over my shoulder.
By the time I had referred back and drew myself out of the sea, I was both tired and energized. My brain was clear and I knew exactly what I wanted to do the working day. In other messages, I was suffering all the benefits of meditation and mindfulness–it only likewise happened that I’d knocked out my calorie objective for the day and envisioned a brand-new part of a city I had seen many times before.
It has become cliche–and annoying, frankly–to try to sell people on Zen Buddhism and meditation these days. Sit and watch your breather, they say. Try a five day silent withdraw. Read this book. Download this guided app.
I think there is a simpler solution: Merely go for a swim. A long one.
In a puddle. In a lagoon. In the atlantic provinces. At a natural spring. Wherever you can, supplied, you are familiar with, that you actually can swim( The last part is very important. Please don’t ignore ).
You’ll experience the benefits immediately. Not simply is swimming one of the lowest impact forms of exercise–while still activating the whole body–it is, as I said, an immersive transcendent knowledge akin to meditation. It is impossible not to get something out of the stillnes, the redundancy, the look at this place the line on the bottom of the pool. Me, I like the seem and pres I find in my ears as my president goes in and out of the sea. I like the lane my goggles cloud up and shorten my visibility to simply the necessary quantity. I like the feeling of the flow state when I made just the right rapidity for exactly the right distance. I even like the mental math I sometimes do in my thought to become involved in terms with the monotony…a mile isn’t counted to 72, it’s 7 determines of ten. And 4 laps into 10, symbolizes I’m almost done with this one and then I’ll get to start the next one…wait, what multitude am I on again?
Lots of people smarter than me have propounded the benefits of swimming. Follow the athlete and podcaster Rich Roll on Instagram and you’ll understand him bang out a lunch swim of 5, 000 yards. He has said that “submerged, the idle chatter of the ape subconsciou recedes. Each stroke, each lap is like a metronome, lulling me into a calm country of existence. When my swim is accomplish, I have an unavoidable impression of gratitude, with a light dusting of accomplishment.” The writer Robert Greene swims 1.25 miles multiple days of the week as a way of both breaking up the tough duty of writing and strengthening himself up to be able to do it. When he was president John Quincy Adams would swim in the early mornings in the Potomac River( can’t do that anymore–though Theodore Roosevelt used to swim nude in the river as well ). Oliver Sacks picked up swimming from “his fathers”, and they both referred to it as the “the elixir of life.” The writer Ruth Fitzmaurice has described swimming as a kind of “reset button.” “You’ll never repents a swimming, ” she once said. “You’ll ever feel good coming out of that water.”
But meditation is more deliberate than this, you are able to say. It’s not just about get some quiet occasion, it’s also about intentionality, about stilling the mind and having a mantra. I get that. For me, the solution to this problem was quite unintentional. I have tattooed on my forearms the phrases “The Obstacle is the Way” and “Ego is the Enemy.” When I swim in clear ocean, they are my mantras. With each stroke I am basically lunging them in front of my sees and forcing myself to think about how I might overcome difficulties I face and how I might reduce and disassemble my self-love.
I love running and there’s no question that it offer many of the same benefits, yet I ever leave a swim better off than I do a lead. Perhaps that’s because extending has fewer protections against the intrusions of the world. There are the stoplights and the honking cars. Our phones and our iPods used to be separate designs but the distinction has mixed and the willpower to switch the phone into airplane mode has lessened. Besides, what if we want to look at Google Maps? What if there is an emergency? What if someone is trying to reach me?
Not that these technologies aren’t coming to the pond either. When I look over and verify a swimmer in the next lane with waterproofed headphones I recollect, “Icarus! You are going to ruin this for yourself if you’re not careful.” The new Apple Watch is waterproof, and initially I was quite alarmed that it would be an intrusion. I’d fling it out of the water if it was but instead I’ve found that tracking my laps digitally signifies I don’t is a requirement to counting just as much, which symbolizes one less conceive in my honcho. I shake my manager at other “inventions” very. What are you swimming with fins for, acquaintance? What’s with that laughable snorkel? To each their own, I suspect.
One last fib, one last sales pitch, I predict. Earlier the coming week I was walking out to the puddle at my gym and a fan stopped me as I was get in the water. “Are you Ryan Holiday? I exactly read Perennial Seller .” I thanked him and started my swim. It occurred to me though, about halfway through, just how much of that notebook I had written in the kitty, in the middle lane, which I always opt because there is less to bump into. Not writing consciously of course. I would head out to swim precisely when I was tired of writing or helplessly stayed. Yet it would ever seem to be that the swimming would open whatever doorway I was struggling to get open or some insight would creep into my brain that would be perfect for that place in Section 3 that I hadn’t contemplated before. My writing wasn’t merely enabled and encouraged by the lucidity I had after my swims, but in fact, the process of swimming itself was a writing tool.
So anyway, from one person to another–from one person who can’t seem to sit still long enough to meditate to another–that’s my manoeuvre: Go for a swim. Maybe not every single day but incorporate it into your weekly routine at the very least.
Because swimming is good for the body and good for the person and good for the psyche.