Lately, swimming has made me think of Buddhism. My father taught me to swim. We had the same graceful “crawl”(free style) stroke.Last summer I sometimes swam along the local beach in Lake Michigan, maybe a mile on a calm day. Basic physics says that if you want to swim in one direction you have to push water the other way. How do you do that? It is the arm motion that makes me think of Buddhism. First, I image my arm like the neck of a swan. My hand (the head) lifts up out of the water as my elbow (the arch of the neck) arches upward. The head moves gracefully forward and stretches far out ahead, then dips back down in the water, finger tips (the beak)) first. You try to slide your hand into the water smoothly, without much splash or resistence. Try to imagine yourself grabbing a hand full of water as far ahead of you as you can. Then start pulling/pushing it toward your feet. Try to keep that same handful of water in your hand as you pull, changing the angle of your hand and arm, as you keep that handful of water moving down the center of your body toward your feet. Finally, flip your hand to push it behind you, and say goodbye to it. That last flip will straighten your arm and hand, bringing them straight along your side to reduce drag. Then, lift your elbow. Like the swan’s head, your hand stays beneath the curve of the neck (elbow), gracefully reaching forward, reaching out to repeat the stroke. Here is what makes me think most of Buddhism. Because it takes work to move that handful of water and thrust it behind you, there is a continuous temptation, especially as you tire, to turn your hand so that the handful of water slips out, and your hand slides through the water sideways, avoiding the work. The stroke is easier, but you also won’t movethrough the water. The Buddha taught that we must not pretend that our life involves no suffering. We should not seek needless suffering,but we must confront the suffering that is ours. Like that elusive handful of water, we must grasp the suffering and move it (in some respects) behind us, then let it go. Both the grabbing and the letting go are important. We can’t move forward without them both. It is not easy to learn how to swim well, but if you do, you can slide through the water gracefully and efficiently. Reach out, grab that handful of water, move it behind you, let go, repeat. Keep doing that, and you will move forward. If not, you won’t. An analogy, by its nature, is not the thing. For example, we know that the world is constantly changing. There is no such thing as the “same handful of water” over time. Not even the hand stays the same over time. We continually create ourselves out of our relationships and choices, out of all the events of our lives. That is the Buddhist and process-relational vision of reality.vBut I hope the need for both holding and letting go makes sense. My dad didn’t just teach me HOW to swim, he taught me to LOVE to swim, and to feel safe and happy with 1000 feet of ocean under me. There is value in the analogy of finding some solid rock on which to stand in the rushing river of life. But when no solid rocks seem to be there, it is good to feel that you have learned, spiritually and intellectually, to swim Buddhist style, and sometimes to float and let the current carry you, Taoist style. We can’t control that vast river, but we can become friends with the flowing, accept that we are part of it, and learn to find joy in the swimming.