This week was the school swimming gala. Some of the kids were like little dolphins gracefully and powerfully making their way down the pool. Others made the most tremendous amount of effort, legs and arms flailing and fitfully made it, exhausted and panting, to the edge. Some were sitting on the side in their uniform not wanting to swim.

I was watching all this going on and started thinking about how I and my clients and pretty much everyone I know have lives like this. Some elements of our lives are straightforward, some take tremendous effort and some are not even attempted.

And looking at the pool and the kids doing whatever they were doing, I realised that it just doesn’t matter. The dolphins were flashing through the water, the strugglers were getting huge cheers when they reached the finish, those sitting it out were just sitting it out. It really didn’t matter either way.

Because the truth was that all of us were under the same leisure centre roof for that hour, supported by the same planet. Sitting, standing or in the water, watching, cheering or swimming, we were all of us just having our own individual experience of life in that moment.

Winning or losing, effortful or effortless, full in or full out, it just didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter ultimately because the only thing that makes it anything more than the simple, neutral experience of life is thought in the moment and this will change. This is the truth of every single experience we have. It is true of life itself and it is true of all the areas of life we get to experience – career, marriage, finances, sport, kids, friends, family, health, swimming…

And this, my friends, is where life gets interesting, weird, logical and annoyingly/delightfully paradoxical…

Allow me to explain…

When we see that any experience is just an experience, we have the mind blowing realisation that we don’t need to try to excel in it, change it, struggle in it or avoid it in order to feel OK.

We are perfectly OK regardless.

We are just in the leisure centre of life, totally fine.

As we realise that everything we think about an experience or about ourselves having an experience is simply thought in the moment then any idea we have about the experience or about ourselves having that experience loses its grip.

No longer believing that we cannot swim (or do anything else) we are free to give swimming (or anything else) a go. We can mess up, we can look goofy, we can splash around, we can do whatever occurs to us, we can have fun with it.

As we drop any idea of swimming being hard work or the need to struggle, we relax, we draw on the simple movements we have been taught, we take out the effort and exhaustion, we start to use our energy to move forward.

As we realise that first, second, third or last has no bearing whatsoever on who we are and what we are capable of, we are free to put our entire self into the race.

This is the win win win of life.

This is the exit from all those Catch 22s that our thinking sets up.

In order for me to see myself as a swimmer, I have to swim. I can’t swim until I see myself as a swimmer.

In order for me to be a good swimmer, I have to relax in the water. I can’t relax until I am a good swimmer.

In order for me to be a great swimmer, I have to win this race. I won’t win this race until I know I am a great swimmer.

The irony, paradox, annoying/delightful secret to life is that when we are open to swimming/not swimming, struggling/not struggling, winning/not winning we begin to glide.

When we are open to whatever there is to experience – good bad and ugly, knowing it is all just thought in the moment, our experience of life, of ourselves, of what we can do and create blows the roof off the leisure centre.

When we realise that our identity as great swimmer, struggling swimmer, non-swimmer is simply created from thought we can simply be us, in the water or not in the water, doing whatever occurs to us to do in the moment.

And the crazy, amazing thing is that whether we see this or not, it just doesn’t matter.

Because, either way, we’re all just here in the leisure centre together, experiencing life.

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