To have a breakthrough in the water, you have to be in 100%. I don’t beg people (usually) to let me teach them how to swim. It won’t do either of us any good if we’re not both focused on the task at hand. Until both of us fully commit to being open-minded and in the present moment for the entire session, you won’t get the best results.
About a week before the end of my project, I went to a dinner party and met Odia for the first time. She had a big smile on her face as she introduced herself and told me she kept meaning to call, but had actually been avoiding me. I get that a lot. Again, you have to be ready.
I met her husband Stefan, who was some sort of swimming champion in Hawaii (or something intimidating like that when you are his non-swimming wife). As we spoke throughout the evening, I kept making references to Odia’s participation in my project, hoping I could Jedi mind trick her into it. The key was to get her to the pool alone- without her son and husband watching and making her self-conscious.
Odia’s story was so familiar. I’d heard a version of it many times over the past year: “I used to enjoy being in the pool when I was young. As an adult, I began to develop a fear of the water. I am unsure as to why I am now afraid of the water. I do not like to have my face in the water. I do enjoy the relaxing sensation I have in shallow water.” Odia described her relationship with water as “suffocating.” When she arrived at the pool, she told me she was “nervous, anxious and scared.”
It was such a foreign concept to me to feel that way about water, but I’ve seen this common thread throughout my adult participants. The thing that blows me away is that all of this anxiety and fear is coming from something so simple: Knowing how to breathe. Lacking this skill caused a fear of deep water for Odia- she panicked when she could not put her feet on the ground. When asked to put her face in the water, she held her breath. So, we started at the beginning with bringing our minds to the present and becoming aware of our breath. Inhaling and exhaling. Over and over again. Once she learned how to inhale out of the water, then put her FACE IN the WATER and exhale, Odia completely transformed and quickly achieved a whole new level in her relationship with water. It was like turning on a switch.