We Find Ourselves at Sea

We find ourselves at sea2.jpeg

What a super phrase!  It’s a theme that ripples through the Outdoor Swimming Society, bubbling up like a spring from its wild swimmer source Lynne Roper and flowing through her wonderful posthumous journal Wild Woman Swimming.

This blog post captures some of the thoughts the phrase evokes, with more practical stuff and real life stories from the heart of Confidence Centred Coaching.

We find ourselves

It’s my childish humour that instinctively makes me first think of the quirky randomness of “We find ourselves at sea” – as if suddenly and unexpectedly finding oneself in amongst the waves.  There I was, just strolling along, minding my own business and all of a sudden I’m bobbing up and down, immersed in a cold, swelling sea.  How did that happen?

What comes through Lynne Roper’s journals, of course, is a deeper and life-enriching sense of finding wholeness, a stilling calm and thrilling playfulness all at once in being in wild water.  Perhaps it’s the vastness and untameable rawness of the sea, the constant shifts in tides, swells and waves, nature at its most sublime and powerful, that helps relocate ourselves in the beauty of the natural world.  Or maybe it’s the total body shock of being immersed in cold water, a full-on assault of the senses.  (Inspired by her I’m experimenting to see how long I can keep swimming in the sea without a wetsuit – coming to the end of November and I’m still finding myself dipping in.)

Where I would most like to find myself: Äkäslompolo, Finland

Where I would most like to find myself: Äkäslompolo, Finland

We can also find ourselves in that sense of connectedness and oneness in other places – for me, out on the South Downs on the mountain bike, with the quads burning from a big climb or letting the bike swoop and roll down long twisty descents, stunning views all around glimpsed at speed; running through eerily still forest trails or being buffeted on gusty seafronts; and most exhilarating of all (though sadly all too rare), cross country skiing in deep snowy arctic forests.

And – coming to the first coaching point – I believe we can develop an ability to “find ourselves” even in the heat and pressure of the most intense competitive environments.  Some might say it is exactly in such moments of full on exertion that we find ourselves.  So how?

We lose ourselves

Here there is something of a paradox – that to find oneself in the sense of being immersed in the moment and at one’s very best involves being so wholly focused and so absorbed as to lose ourselves in the activity.

Your perception of time warps as your attention narrows to the task at hand. This attention is so strongly focused on the task that all extraneous thoughts and anxieties disappear… Despite feeling invincible, you are aloof to what others think of you as your self-consciousness recedes into the background. All that matters is mastering the moment.
— from Running Flow by Csikszentmihalyi, Latter & Weinkauff Duranso

This takes us to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of flow, as described in the quote opposite.  How magical when you have that sense of being lost to the moment to the point that “your self-consciousness recedes”.

One of the key ideas in Confidence Centred Coaching is being able to approach an event or competition with much more of a focus on “mastering the moment” than on the end result.  I’ve written elsewhere about viewing what lies between the start and finish lines as a space in which we can be at our very best, a living masterpiece about to be created – and letting the end results, positions and times take care of themselves.

In my coaching I’ve seen people who follow this approach surprise themselves with what they can do – one of the most satisfying experiences a coach could possibly have. 

And one of the key steps in this mastery of the moment, that some struggle with, is to switch away from all the gadgets and measures that so often dictate how people go about their training or competitions, and instead begin to read one’s own body – as described elsewhere in the Coaching for Confidence Learning Zone, to be attuned to form, effort and movement.

We seek out and nurture ourselves

Back to Lynne Roper and something I find really appealing is that all the entries seem to have an element of journey: of her going out of her way to find new places to explore or returning to old treasured haunts; sometimes meeting up with others, sometimes solitary escapes with her crazy dog.  There’s another key point in here – that the experience of finding ourselves is not a passive, waiting for it to come by happenchance.   There’s an active seeking out of places, people and feelings where we can find ourselves and be at our very best.

I’m very mindful of this at the moment from recent conversations with a client who had been struggling with ill-health and mounting pressures.  She felt that the training I’d mapped out for her was becoming yet another burdensome thing to do – an extra pressure on top of everything else and a source of frustration when she couldn’t fit it in or was still unwell.  Talking things through together we came to a point where we agreed to step back from training and coaching for the next few months.

Rather than a complete stop, though, we thought to use the time to actively seek out experiences and people with whom she can enjoy meaningful moments of connection through being active – like the woman’s group of year-round sea swimmers she occasionally meets up with or random encounters along the way whilst running, cycling, hiking … whatever.  And as and when she feels it will help, make the time for some solitary swims, rides, runs … to let herself reconnect with the in-the-moment feelings of being out in nature, in motion, alive and well.

Seeking out such spaces for ourselves naturally leads into nurturing those things that are important to our well-being and where we find ourselves at our very best – cherishing them, maybe sharing them with a sympathetic ear, not allowing ourselves to be distracted from experiencing them to their full.

So, having put all this out there, I guess I’ve committed myself to my cold sea experiment continuing through the Winter and into next year, haven’t I?  Oh dear.

You can buy Wild Woman Swimming from the link to the Outdoor Swimming Society here.

And as always, please use the comments space below to share your reflections and ideas.

25 November: and so we find ourselves in very cold water, connecting with partner Anne

25 November: and so we find ourselves in very cold water, connecting with partner Anne