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Popular opinion says that if someone could just learn to tread water, she or he would be safe in deep water.

We must unravel this erroneous idea.

Treading water is not a safety skill. It is a skill of convenience.

Let’s wait for the shouting and objections to die down.

Now we can explore it.

A person who’s unsafe in water cannot learn to tread sustainably. How many have tried? How many are being told that they should be able to learn? How many have become discouraged? Even if they can move their arms and legs like this, they can’t feel what they’re doing: they’re not completely present. It’s exhausting. They’re worried about sinking, dying, panicking, or drifting away from the edge. The idea that someone who’s unsafe in deep water can learn to tread is actually a bit preposterous. We’re stating this out loud so you can let yourself off the hook for not learning to tread before you know you’re safe.

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

When you see someone treading, looking as though they don’t have a care in the world, they aren’t thinking 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 convenience skill that makes it easy to look around, talk to people, get your bearings, or do things in deep water. It is not designed to keep someone safe. You have be safe and feel safe before you can learn to tread.

So start at the beginning and skip no steps. It is inevitable that you’ll learn to tread when you feel safe and you are fully present in deep water: you know how the water works. It just takes a little time and focusing on the right things. That’s what Miracle Swimming is about.

This introduction to treading water is the beginning of a full video that teaches treading.