Treading Water

June 17, 2019

“I had been simply treading water, settling on surviving and avoiding pain rather than being actively involved in seeking out life.” Kay Redfield Jamison, clinical psychologist & writer

Treading water is a favorite way to accelerate my heartrate in the arthritis swim class I attend. I chuckle when I remember how, in training as a water safety instructor, we had to tread water for ten minutes with both arms up and out of the water. That was nearly fifty years ago. Today I can easily tread water non-stop for two minutes, using both my legs and arms. I consider that a monumental achievement. But something occurred to me in this morning’s class during our first aerobic session.

Treading water in the shallow end is vastly different than treading water in the deep end. I’m safe in the shallow end. I can see the bottom. I can walk to the side wall. But in the deep end my life depends on keeping my head above water. I can’t see the bottom. I have to swim to the side wall. Using this thought as a metaphor, I wonder where I’m playing it safe in my life? Have I become too familiar with the status quo of the shallow end? Or, am I willing to risk going into the deeper waters of the unknown for a more meaningful experience of life? That’s where change happens!

Consider this passage from The Infinite Way by Joel Goldsmith: “When your spiritual study is sincere, the breaking-up of your material world—the desertion of friends, students, or family, a change in health or other outer activity—often ushers in the spiritual transition, or rebirth. This is the attainment of that which you have sought.”

My spiritual growth will not expand if I stay in the shallow end. The illusion is that I can control what happens there. Things will stay the same because it’s predictable and safe. But my spirit continually longs to go deeper. To dive into the primordial depths of this thing called Life. What is my life about, especially now that I’m swimming towards my twilight years? What are my relationships about, especially when there are dis-connects and dis-comforts? What are the stressors in my country that trigger feelings of despair?

As Goldsmith predicted, I have suffered a great deal with loss since my spiritual studies became sincere nearly thirty years ago. I could make a list. It would be a long one. Yet I can truthfully say that I am grateful for every change, even if it meant flailing my arms around in the deep end of the pool while shouting “help” to a lifeguard. It’s here where I remember that I am the guardian of my own life. This is my swimming pool. I have choice between the shallow and deep ends. Where does my spirit want to tread water today?

And more shall be revealed….

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