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How Snorkelling Reminds Me of Flow

Today I feel tired and adrift, like I can’t get my feet under me. My heart is a little battered. I can see my destination a ways off ~ my next creative project ~ but I don’t know whether I have the stamina to reach it.

I’m thinking about turning around to let the onshore breeze carry me back to a quieter easier life with more glasses of white wine and massaman curry, and less salt water in my nose, fewer buffeting waves and menacing rocks.

I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

It’s the echo of Why bother? and Is this something I want to do again?

Over the weekend, our heavenly unplugged weekend on the tiny tropical island of Koh Lipe, I contemplated how to draw my writing close so I could see its true shape and detail. I brought the current draft with me but never opened it. I thought about journalling but didn’t pick up a pen.

Instead I read a book, an honest-to-goodness needs-a-bookmark paperback called Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (for the record, I loved it. Especially the parts set in Prague). I played in the water with the kids. I had a Thai massage on the beach.

And I went snorkeling.

While I floated over the coral and watched clown fish dart out of anemone and parrot fish nibble the reef, it struck me that snorkeling is a kind of meditation. You hardly have to move, borne up by the brackish sea and nudged by the current. Your breath naturally becomes yogic pranayama as you take in air long and slow through your snorkel (isn’t snorkela perfect Dr. Suess word?).

You think of nothing while the underwater beauty draws you forward. It’s only when you raise your head to get your bearings that you feel the need to make an effort ~ to get somewhere. And the minute you dip back down again, you’re at peace.

This is the quality of flow I want to bring to my writing.

This afternoon, as I was floundering in that post-vacation haze, I wondered whether I would really make good on this project or whether I would flinch and veer away at the last minute, like in a game of Chicken. Then I wondered why the heck I was picturing a writing project as a car barrelling down on me.

I need a better metaphor. Perhaps the deva of my book is a care-worn but twinkle-eyed older woman with greying hair in a loose braid down her back. Her voice is quiet but I can hear every word when I move in close. Perhaps I can come to her with this soft, easy energy ~ not pushing and straining but perfectly in sync.

Today I talked to my flow sister, Marjory Mejia, and she reminded me that flow comes and goes. The tide must ebb so it can flood back again. It’s all a matter of timing ~ there’s no point in snorkelling when the surf is crashing or after the sun has set.

Writing this, now, I can feel myself calming down.

I get tired after a few laps in the pool but I can snorkel for hours.

Perhaps it’s not so much about stamina. Perhaps it’s more about love.

Photo by Jane Rahman

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