Do you remember taking those swimming tests when you were little, the ones that moved you from beginner, to intermediate, and on to advanced if you got that far?
The Red Cross actually has six swim tests now, beginning with “Level 1: Water Exploration” and ending with “Level 6: Skill Proficiency.” The first of the 13 requirements in Level 1 is “become oriented to aquatic environment.” Submerging your face in the water and supported floating and kicking are probably the hardest tasks.
It’s not until Level 3 that you actually have to jump into deep water from the side of the pool and know how to tread water. That’s when things get serious.
When it comes to mindfulness, I’m probably a Level 2 if you’re going by Red Cross standards. Recent developments, which I’ll come back to, have given me a push from behind, sending me into the deep water. The jury’s still out on whether I’ll pop up to the surface, let alone if I’ll tread water well enough to stay afloat.
I stumbled into mindfulness (defined by the Dalai Lama as “non-judgmental present moment awareness”) in the spring of 2010, when I was introduced, quite by accident, to Eckhart Tolle’s work. At the time, I was pre-Level 1, not in the least bit oriented to the mindfulness environment. It probably took me a year to feel comfortable with my face in the water. I still needed support to float, let alone to kick.
Mindfulness, I’ve learned, is a lot easier without distractions. Just when you think you’re floating, your kid shoots a hole through your home-made (but thankfully empty) birdhouse with a paintball gun and you find yourself screaming (again) at the top of your lungs.
That hand that was supporting your back in quiet waters disappears and you sink to the bottom. So much for that baby step you thought you had made toward enlightenment.
But, like with everything else that’s worth it, you shake it off and climb back on the wagon. You remind yourself that those screaming episodes are a lot fewer and farther between than they used to be (see Zig Zag Mama for more about that).
And when you finally feel like you’re starting to get the hang of things, you realize it’s time to shake things up.
So when I received a group email two weeks ago saying, “Folks, there is a 15-year-old soccer player from Australia in search of a home for a school term,” I didn’t immediately squelch that little voice in my heart that said, “This just might work.”
The original family placement had fallen through at the last minute. It turned out that this boy, who age-wise is exactly between my two sons, loves soccer enough to happily attend the myriad of games and tournaments that fill up our weekends. He blew in on the tailwinds of Hurricane Sandy and arrived four days ago.
Between our spur-of-the-moment decision to invite this delightful young man into the adventure of our lives for the next two and a half months, and getting ready for THE STORM OF THE CENTURY, my writing output has suffered over the last couple of weeks.
But that voice in my heart is telling me to relax, this all worked out the way it was supposed to. It will be the best thing in the world for my writing–and my mindfulness practice more generally–to stir up the pot a little. If my blog posts are a little less frequent for a while, so be it.
I can already feel myself approaching the surface. And I think I’m strong enough now to keep my head above water once I get there.
As I write this on election day in the United States, it feels odd to not make any mention of the important issues at stake for our country. All I will say (since I have a beautifully diverse portfolio of friends spanning the political spectrum), is that I hope all of my eligible readers cast their votes today!