mindfulness part 2

Continuing from Part 1

I don’t claim that Total Immersion  guarantees deliverance from these self-imposed emotional storms, but myself and so many others who I have met in the global TI community of swimmers have found our practice to greatly improve our mental and emotional stability, as a complement to other practices that serve that end in our lives.

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And I find the need to re-iterate – if you think Total Immersion is just a particular stroke style then you have merely seen, not the tip of the iceberg, but only the dusting of snow on the surface. Total Immersion is a practice, not a stroke. It’s a path to reaching your goal, not a trick to skip ahead in your development. It’s a method of mastering stroke control that comes through mental training – far more than most realize. If you get the mind part, the rest comes along so much more easily. If you don’t get the mind part, then I can’t predict how much you’ll get out of it.

So when people come to our training events looking for a quick superficial fix on their stroke to make it faster with low interest looking inside or training inside, there is some, but likely limited benefit they will receive from the training. If they don’t get the mind part, I don’t expect them to stick with it very long – because the mindfulness part is central to the TI advanced training methodology for higher performance. Maybe you can imagine the limited capabilities a person would get from training for aikido or some similar martial arts if they only focused on the external motions of it. They might look good in front of a mirror, but they will get their butt kicked in a real fight. So too with TI, you get only as much out of it as you are willing to go deep inside with it.

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I see the look or hear the comment in camp after a few days – ‘Oh, this is way more complicated than I imagined!”

And yet, at camp, our coaching staff is still restraining what is taught a great deal, knowing it must be spread out over time, which is what the TI approach is suppose to do.

Total Immersion has not made marvelous swimming (think “beautiful, efficient and fast”) less complex – land-mammals learning to move through water without wasted effort will never be a simple task. Rather, TI has simply broken down that unavoidable complexity into sequential bite-size pieces. It has built a successful path to marvelous swimming, that ANY BODY can follow and get great results from. Unlike other popular programs, you don’t have to be a natural to get these results. But you do have to pick up the practice and work at it to get to them.

In our training events the challenge for me as the coach is to measure out just just what the swimmer can process and integrate successfully in that short time together. I must help them understand something of the neurological process (which touches body, mind and emotions) and help them set their expectations for themselves accordingly. But there is no denying that this is a very deep and complex practice – as intense as you would like to go. For the last 14 years (after 13 years in a traditional format before that) I have been, with no apology, a very deep and dedicated practitioner of this mindfulness in swimming and can guide you as deep and far as I have gone. But consider, if it has taken me (as a happy and dedicated, but not necessarily gifted swimmer) 14 years to swim as I do, what kind of expectation should you set for yourself?

The good news is that I have become a coach to help others along the same path and likely, to save you the time I wasted figuring everything out on my own (as a complete self-taught TI swimmer. TI Coach Shinji is one also).

But I didn’t have to wait 14 years until I reached what I describe for myself as a marvelous state of swimming. I was thrilled even after my first two weeks of experimenting with TI. And then in 3 more months I found even more to marvel at. I would describe my journey in this practice as one of stepping into new levels of heaven periodically all along the way. About every year or two I keep getting surprised there is another level of heaven to enter into!!! I am continually stunned and inspired to go further.

One key to this is to work on setting up a emotional-storm-free zone for training.

At one camp this summer, in a group discussion, a swimmer asked me for an example of how I deal with the negative thoughts about my progress and performance. I was speechless for many seconds – my TI Coach partner Baha said later he, at first, wondered how I got stumped by the question. But what surprised myself and caused the pause was that I could not recall an experiences of dealing with negative thoughts in relationship to my swimming from the last several years. I was scanning frantically for suitable example from another area of my life where I draw a parallel in answer his question (I could find several). I realized that I had integrated the mental skills so deeply (into my aquatic life, at least) that emotional storms don’t rise up that often nor exert much interference when they do. I am truly at peace in the water, and use it to refresh me in that way – now I work on increasing the complexity of my practices to expand the conditions in which I remain peacefulness.

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And, that calm, focused, intuitive skill that I’ve practiced in the water so many years I have taken into other areas of my life and started practicing it there too. It’s like the mental/emotional success I have experienced in this relatively easy (less-consequential) area of sports life has given me encouragement and strength to implement that practice into more difficult, more consequential areas of my life: i.e. relationships – marriage, parenting, business, neighbor and community issues, etc. I practice swimming in order to live better, rather than use swimming to escape what I won’t deal with.

Practicing the mental skills (and, emotional skills) for marvelous swimming has been a launching pad for making progress in other areas of life. It sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? But this is simply a  testimony of my own genuine experience, and this is what I ultimately intend to impart, even in some small way, to everyone I coach in swimming.

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