Stop Swimming

Last night I felt it appropriate to share one of my favorite stories of my guru’s guru, Swami Kripalu, during my yoga class. I’ll share my shortened interpretation here.

Swami Kripalu was in a deep meditation one evening. It was monsoon season in India, and he was warm while still in this meditative state, Swami Kripalu jumped from his meditation cushion and ran toward the Narmada River and jumped in to cool off. Being monsoon season the river has rushing and Kripalu was soon pulled into the raging river. He was shaken from his meditative state and immediately began to attempt to swim to shore. There was one problem: he couldn’t swim. After struggling and struggling to swim to shore, Kripalu was just about to give up and accept the fate that he would drown. He heard a voice say to him “Stop swimming.” He must be hallucinating , Swami Kripalu thought. Then he heard it again, the voice of his teacher instructing “Swami, Stop swimming.” Confused because if he stopped swimming he would surely drown, but he followed the command. And lo-and-behold his body began to float effortlessly upon the waves of the river. He continued floating in this manner for the remainder of the night, eventually coasting toward the shore where the villagers came to help rescue him.

Why do I share? This story illustrates that sometimes we get stuck in the struggle. This keeps us from being able to see solutions or to get out of a situation. It is like we can’t see anything but the struggle. Although this applies to just about everything in life, it feels particularly poignant as our country begins the phases to reopen businesses and schools.

In my home state of Rhode Island, there is currently great debate over schools -do we go back to in-person learning or not? There’s a lot of debate, especially while social gathering limits remain low, restaurants and businesses are operating under restrictions that greatly limit building capacity (and therefore limit sales). And there are many business that are still not able to open within the current guidelines (the yoga studio I teach at is one of such businesses). The one thing that is consistent through all of this: we are struggling with what to do.

We, as individuals and as a state, are focused on the struggle. We are focused on making the right choice, doing the right thing. We are swimming through this crisis, and in the process of this struggle we are realizing we can not swim. We need to let go of the struggle – to stop swimming. Once we are no longer focused on the struggle, the answers will come to us. Just as when Swami Kripalu stopped struggling, he discovered that he didn’t need to try to swim because his body could float. It’s the same for a difficult life decision, like reopening schools, as it is for a difficult yoga pose. The moment we stop struggling we find a sense of ease, and in that ease answers come.

So, take a moment today to notice where you are “struggling.” It might be something big, it might be something minor. See if you can let go of the struggle, even if only briefly. Stop swimming.

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