(This is the letter enclosed in the most recent Joy Center snail-mail.)
Arise from dreams of littleness to the realization of the vastness within you. Paramhansa Yogananda
We were swim kids, we kids of coastal Maine in the sixties and seventies. When the weather turned cold and the trees bared their branches and those first flakes of snow tickled our noses, sure, we reveled in outdoor play, in skating on the local pond and diving into piles of raked-up leaves, but it was the local YMCA in our blue-collar ship-building town on the Kennebec River that called to us, to its brand-new aqua-tiled pool. There were swimming lessons and swimteam practices and free swims on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. The free-time was our favorite. We cannon-balled off the diving board, somersaulted our way from shallow-end to deep, splashed each other and kicked our feet in wild abandon. We loved this time in our chlorinated playground. We learned to fully inhabit our bodies; we learned that water is buoyant; we learned to swim like the seals and the fish that lived in that ocean just miles away. And that is where we headed in the summer months, to our cottages and the two state parks and their wide expanses of beach. And that is where we felt our most free. Many of us had never traveled outside of New England; yet, we knew that this ocean, the one we dove into and splashed around in and loved beyond measure, stretched on forever. We knew that there was a whole world to explore much bigger than our twenty-five-yard-long YMCA swimming pool.
I was thinking about all of this the other evening while standing in yoga at the Joy Center. All of a sudden, with my feet firmly planted on the hardwood floor, my arms lifted themselves to the sky. They wanted to swim. And I invited the others standing with me to join in. So that’s what we did. With our arms stretching through the October air in backstroke motions, we swam – not in a rectangular swimming pool, but in an ocean, a whole ocean of possibility. And it came to me then, as we swam in our expansive sea of creativity, that so often we are moving around in a fixed-shape pool of beliefs and boundaries, swimming our laps, thinking that this is it, the only playground in town, when, in reality, there is an ocean right here, present in the moment, its salt air beckoning us, an ocean as grand as our imaginations allow it to be.
Two times this past week, I have waked myself up in the mornings with my own laughter. I’m not sure what has brought it on. But I do know it has felt good to wake up like this, with such a feeling of buoyancy and freedom. And I do know that there is a lot to feel good about when we swim in that large sea of possibility. In mid-October, on the last of the warm evenings with a full moon shining in the Joy Center’s open window, I, along with thirteen others, sang my heart out – I, who never thought that it was possible to sing out loud in the presence of anybody other than my cat. It was as exhilarating as plunging right into that childhood ocean. I’ve witnessed others, plunging in, too, creating and collaborating in expansive new ways. And the next Joy Center calendar of events is over-the-top filled with opportunities to dive in and play, opportunities to lift our spirits and remember our buoyancy, opportunities to expand and grow, from yoga to dance, to a celebration of food, to art and writing workshops, to performances and song and storytelling – it is a world worth diving into. So here’s to buoyancy. Here’s to possibility!