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"Learning How To Float", by Mark Nepo

I love reading "The Book of Awakening", by Mark Nepo. I recently read this text again, and have been sharing it with my students.

Here it is:

Learning how to float

by Mark Nepo

When we stop struggling,

we float.

When first learning how to swim, I didn’t trust the deep. No matter how many assuring voices I heard from the shore, I strained and flapped to keep my chin above the surface. It exhausted me, and only when exhausted did I relax enough to immerse myself to the point that I could feel the cradle of the deep keep me afloat.

I’ve come to understand that this is the struggle we all replay between doubt and faith. When thrust into any situation over our head, our reflex is to fight with all our might the terrible feeling that we are sinking. Yet the more we resist, the more we feel our own weight and wear ourselves out.

At time like this, I remember learning to float. Mysteriously, it required letting almost all of me rest below the surface before the deep would hold me up. It seems to me, almost forty years later, that the practice of finding our faith is very much like that—we need to rest enough of ourselves below the surface of things until we find ourselves upheld.

This is very hard to do. But the essence of trust is believing you will be held up if you let go. And though we can practice relaxing our fear and meeting the deep, there is no real way to prepare for letting go other than to just let go.

Once immersed, once below the surface, it is not by chance that things slow down, go clear, feel weightless. Perhaps faith is nothing more than taking the risk to rest below the surface.

That we can’t stay there only affirms that we must choose the deep again and again in order to live fully. That we must move through the sense of sinking before being upheld is what trusting the Universe is all about.

~Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Mark Nepo's website

Yelapa, Mexico. February 2024. Photo courtesy of Anna Callon

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