Treading Water

It seems that everyone believes that if someone could just learn to tread water, s/he’d be AOK: safe in deep water.

This idea needs to be permanently unraveled.

Treading water is not a safety skill. It is a skill of convenience.
Let’s wait for all the shouting and objecting to this thought dies down.
There, now we can explore it.

A person who’s unsafe in water cannot learn to tread. How many have tried? How many instructors have tried to teach unsafe students to tread? Even if they can move their arms and legs like this, they can’t feel what they’re doing: they’re not completely present to what the water is doing for them. They’re worried about sinking, dying, panicking, or drifting away from the edge. The idea that someone who’s unsafe can learn to tread is virtually preposterous. It’s time to state this out loud. 🙂

Someone who is desperate to learn to tread water is in the very state that prevents learning: ahead of himself. He has to be calm, safe, and comfortable in order to absorb the many lessons leading up to learning to tread water. And if the teaching is done well, treading will appear naturally and effortlessly out of the blue… and, it will be lasting.

When you see someone treading and looking as though they don’t have a care in the world and they don’t have to think about what they’re doing, it’s not because they know how to tread. It’s because they know they are safe, whether they tread or not.

Treading is a skill that makes it easy to look around, talk to people, get your bearings, or do things in deep water. It was not designed to keep someone safe. You have be safe and feel safe before you can learn to tread.