I am an avid and enthusiastic U.S. master’s swimmer and lecturer on subjects involving the world religions. I therefore often have both these topics on my mind. I recently completed the 10K and 5K swims but not in open water as one might expect but instead I completed these races in a 50 meter long course pool. These are national postal swims in which the participant has a designated official and they submit their time online via the internet or via postal mail. I’ve heard many swimmers complain about doing the 10K in a pool. They have described the experience as very difficult and requiring mental toughness. Swimming the 5K or 10K in open water is not an easy mental task either.
Zen Buddhism expects the follower to meditate on a daily basis; sometimes for hours. Zen Buddhism is different than the other Buddhist sects. Zen Buddhists place a higher emphasis on meditation. The word Zen actually comes from the Chinese word Chan which means meditative state. Buddhists follow the Noble Eightfold Path, which in short involves ethical conduct in each aspect of one’s daily lives. Meditation is part of guaranteeing ethical conduct in the daily life of a Zen Buddhist. The goal of the meditation and eightfold path in Zen Buddhism is to ease the suffering in the world. The Dalai Lama is the leader of the Buddhist community. The title “Dalai Lama” comes from the Tibetan and Mongolian words meaning ocean (vast) and guru (leader). He once said “If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”
Swimmers that struggle gaining a meditative state of mind and focusing on the present moment are often stressed and overwhelmed with the complaints and fears within their life and the cosmos. Fortunately for all of us, swimming naturally requires one to focus on the task at hand. The repetitive movement during swimming sets the tone. Swimming has that palliative effect. This is how swimming and Zen meditation are related. They both necessitate calming yet disciplined introspection. Further, swimming and Zen meditation both instill mental discipline.
Long distance swimming is no doubt my Zen. I love long distance swimming. I know of many others that feel the same way. The world would be a better place if more people adopted swimming as their Zen. Swimming is also one of the most beneficial physical exercises. All dedicated swimmers can certainly promote the sport of swimming to our youth and encourage adults to adopt swimming as their hobby. The personal benefits alone are huge. Competitive and fitness swimming programs do, without a doubt improve the well-being and happiness of communities.