Years ago, when I was a chemical dependency counselor and worked with adolescents in both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, I did all kinds of experiential activities with them. Not only are experiential activities fun and interesting but they teach some fundamental life skills that I think all people should practice.
One of my favorite exercises was one I started many of my group sessions with. It can be challenging but when you get the hang of it, it can do wonders for your mood. I would have everyone sit down and get comfortable then we would all take turns running through our senses. We would fill in the blank to the following statements and no one was allowed to say the same thing as another person.
- One thing I hear right now is _______.
- One thing I smell right now is _______.
- One thing I feel right now is ________.
- One thing I taste right now is _______.
- One thing I see right now is _______.
The reason it's challenging is because we're not always aware of noises we hear if we're in a quiet room. What if we aren't eating anything, how can we taste something? If the room we're in is empty, how can we all come up with something different we see? I got all those questions/complaints and others. My answer is that it takes some training to really put yourself in the present and observe everything around and within you. No matter how many people or how bare the room or how long since you had your lunch, we are all going to experience our environment differently. It's up to each of us to become familiar with our bodies, our minds, our thoughts, and yes, our senses.
The other day, I walked into the pool area on a hot day and it was crowded. I mean packed! There are 4 lanes in the pool at my gym and normally 2-3 people share one lane if it's busy. There were 4-5 people sharing one lane on this particular day. It was craziness. I got into a lane and started feeling irritated with the over-crowding.
People everywhere, damn it!
Don't people know how to share a freakin' lane?
(if there are just two then split the lane in half and go back and forth on your own side but when there are 3 or more, play follow the leader going up one side and down the other so you don't end up swimming into and over each other)
I just got kicked by this stupid bitch!
Oh my god, I'm gonna smack someone!
So not a zen place to be for my swim experience. I decided I needed to just focus on what I was doing and stop worrying about everyone else. Of course, I enlisted my good ole experiential activity to get myself centered. I started going through my list and got stuck on the first one.
One thing I hear right now is _____?
Then it hit me. Have you ever listened to the sound of the air bubbles as your head bobs in and out of the water? I was doing the breast stroke so my breathing was very regular. Kick - exhale under water, stroke - inhale above water, kick - exhale under water, stroke - inhale above water. I noticed that as I was exhaling through my nose under water, the bubbles were passing by the sides of my face and as I came to the surface for another gasp of air, they made a popping sound right by my ears. No two bubbles sounded the same either. It was a symphony of air bubbles.
I spent the rest of my swim experience amazed by how fantastic it was to have my very own soundtrack. 20 laps and 40 minutes later, I was still surrounded by crazy flailing people swimming in every which direction but I was all smiles and felt like I just woke from a pleasant sleep as my swim song seemed to be a lullaby. I was calm, peaceful, centered, and thoroughly satisfied.
Since that day, I have enjoyed the sounds of the pool just as much as I did initially. And, I've noticed a couple others since then.
My challenge to you is to take a swim and pay very close attention to the sounds in your personal soundtrack. What do you hear? How does it affect your experience? What is your swim song?
I'd absolutely love to hear about your observations. Please comment to share your experiences or if you might be interested in guest posting your stories on Living Active, you can email me directly. Because I want Living Active to be more interactive and inclusive, I am looking for others who might be interested in guest posting every so often. Let me know if you're interested.