Ocean swimming as meditation

I am in Hawaii, working and exploring and writing—and, for the first time in my life, swimming in the ocean. Not just playing in the water, but I mean, really swimming. Laps along the shoreline at gentle beaches like Lanikai, and yesterday for the first time in my life, swimming out a little further to deeper waters off Waikiki, beyond what seemed possible before I arrived here just two weeks ago.

Boing Boing pal Brian Lam (a periodic guest contributor to our blog) lives on the island of Oahu, and invited me to come out here after my cancer treatment ended for restoration and a reboot. I took him up on his kind offer, and the experience has been deeply transformative in so many ways.

Brian has been my swim mentor, and has taught me a lot about the ocean during this visit. Last night, we visited a longtime ocean-lover and Hawaii yoga teacher, Rick Bernstein. That's him in the photo above. He has studied yoga and meditation in India, Bhutan, and elsewhere, and has taught those practices here in Honolulu for 38 years. For years, his daily routine has included a deep water swim of more than two miles along the shore of Waikiki, often accompanied by a pod of dolphins, turtles, beautiful schools of fish, or manta. For him, swimming is a form of meditation, a devotional act.

Last night, Rick read this essay aloud to us. It was so beautiful. And so meaningful, just a few hours after a literally deep experience: my first deeper-water ocean swim. Here is a snip, as it was published on Scuttlefish:

Swimming easily, On Mani Padme Hum fills my mind, one complete utterance per four rhythmic strokes. The depth increases from ten to twenty, then thirty to forty feet as I move further from shore and into the vastness of the Divine Mother in the guise of ocean. Om Mani Padme Hum. I have heard two definitions of “Om Mani Padme Hum”. “Hail the jewel in the lotus” and “ God is the crystal river running through the lotus in my heart”.

The imagery I use while chanting: Light energy streaming into the crown of my head and flowing down and out through my heart. I think of it as an energy that unifies everyone and everything across time and space, a cosmic love in. Om Mani Padme Hum.

A quarter mile swath of coral reef now lies behind and the open ocean beckons. When I entered the water at Kaimana Beach, the sandy expanse and near shore waters were occupied by beachgoers enjoying the morning. After swimming seaward for fifteen minutes, the beach appears deserted in the distance and glistens in the morning sun. Framed by Coconut trees and Diamond Head Crater, it is a beautiful sight. Om Mani Padme Hum.

Salty Stories: One Stroke Follows Another (Rick Bernstein, thescuttlefish.com)

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