Updated: Mar 1, 2020
Last July my father died from Alzheimer’s disease. A good friend and yoga teacher gave me a little book written by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist teacher. In it he says
“Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud “.
Today there is a battle, a force of mind and will against the chill air that gusts around the house and the driving rain that lashes the windows. The knowledge that it is going to be cold, those few moments of semi-nakedness stood at the top of the sand before sinking into the water. But I must go, there is no real doubt in my head that I will swim. I believe there can be no enjoyment and sense of fulfilment in mindfulness if you only practice it in pleasurable times, sights, sensations and thoughts……”no mud no lotus”. It is being mindful of the challenge, the cold, the pain, that allows us to control these feelings and know that they are only a passing sensation. I try to be present in these feelings as I am present in feelings of warmth, pleasure, wellness and happiness. The sandy track down to the beach, through Veronica farm is potholed and now fills with puddles. My feet squelch and splodge and slip and slide as I totter along in my flip flops. I walk past contrasts in flora so indicative of this tiny isle. Standing resolute against the seashore, dead hogweed seed heads. Spiked stars clutched together on outstretched limbs of minkskin grey. A relic of hot summer’s past. Alongside, vibrant, egg yolk yellow narcissi proudly bob their intoxicating scented heads. A sign of hot summers to come. The sky is grey and austere but the sea still lures me in and I submerge myself into it. The water is silky cold. Rain hits the steel blue sea leaving tiny silver pearls bouncing up from its surface. I shelter in the little bay behind the quay with 2 lesser backed gulls for company. After a swim I float, face up, staring into the opaque grey clouds and the rain pelts my face and blurrs my goggles.
Winter swims are solitary, no one on the beach let alone in the sea. There is a great sense of achievement in getting myself into the water day after day. It is a boost to confidence and self esteem as well as the circulation. It leaves a glow both mentally and physically that can not be beaten.