Wisdom//

How Rebirthing Helped Get Over My Fear of Water to Learn Swimming at 40

Overcoming our deepest fears is a battle that requires courage and persistence.

Call it mid-life awakening or the need to make the most of your life before it slips away, I decided to dive (no pun intended!) right into my biggest fear—swimming. And I did it! Let’s start with a bit of a flashback.

More than a year ago, my high school best friend asked me to join her for a five day ‘Rebirthing Breathwork’ Workshop being held in Goa by a holistic healer she vouches for. Initially I hesitated. Besides being heavy on the pocket, I had to take a full week off from work! But then after some convincing, I was in.

The five days that followed were simply another level of amazement and inner expansion! Usha, the healer, explained to us about the concept of ‘Rebirthing’ through ‘breathwork’, a concept founded by Leonard Orr, which leads to a heightened level of self-awareness.

The healer explained that the breath is the only truth of our existence and our connection with our absolute self, the source of our being. All answers lie within and we need to make our breath our best friend, our true companion and it will reveal to us all that we need to know.

Every morning, we woke up at 5 am and started the day with Yoga. Each day involved our experience with one of the elements that we are made of—Earth, water, fire, air and space. For example, at the ‘Earth’ session, we were buried in a sand pit on the beach with only our head above the surface!

The sessions involved deep, concentrated and connected breathing for a minimum of 45 minutes, and we did this in pairs. Such deep breathwork brings out our deep-rooted fears and memories to the surface and in a way that we may be able to interpret and address them. It was quite overwhelming to see the emotional outbursts of some participants and also the stories coming out of each session.

Day 4 was the day I was most anxious about—the water session. And this session involved floating on water for half an hour and then going under water with a snorkel for another 20 minutes.

“Are you kidding me?” was my natural reaction. Having always been scared of water, I would rarely accompany friends and family into the pool or the beach, and if I did, I’d sit at the edge with only my feet dipped in. There was no way that anyone could convince me to get into the water and ‘trust them’ with it!

However, by day 4 of the Rebirthing workshop, I had learnt to apply, as Usha would say, “Trust your breath. Let it guide you. Breathe into your fears. You will find the answers.”

The author with her rebirthing healer Usha (left).

So, we gather by the pool and see a demo of re-birthing under water. I asked a co-participant (who’s a trained lifeguard!) to be my partner for this session and watch over me as I took position lying afloat on the water, armed with a float board under my back and floaters in both my arms. I felt sure I wouldn’t drown!

At first, when I was floating face up, I saw white ghost like figurines in my imagination. Maybe because of my anticipated fear of the session. But then I told myself to let go and trust the process.

As I was deeply engaged in conscious, connected breathing for almost 25 minutes, I got a sudden vision that I am floating in my mother’s womb. And just at that moment, it hit me that I was safe! A mother’s womb is naturally the safest place for anyone in the world! And there… boom! My fear vanished.

I had a calm feeling inside of me. My partner, who was very patient with me, then asked me to turn my head into water and continue to breathe and inhale deeply. I was amazed that I could keep my head under water and breathe through a snorkel for 20 minutes! And that was because I was so calm and lost in the zone of feeling safe where I was!

I was thrilled. I returned with the feeling of having conquered the biggest battle—our inner fears are always our biggest battles. And I decided I would now start swimming lessons. But work life took over. My 10-year-old nephew did attempt coaching me during the holidays but this ‘difficult student’ as he called me, wouldn’t cooperate.

Finally, having recently quit my last job to take a break for myself, I decided to use this precious time to learn swimming on priority. I asked myself, “If not now, then when?”

I signed up and committed to private lessons at a hotel. Over the last two months of taking swimming lessons, I can safely say, I feel so elated with this aspect of my personal growth, although, I still have a lot of ground, (or water), to cover!

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