Lessons from the Mat: Floating

Have you ever let yourself float on the top of moving water, in a pool or on the lake? I know some people who have grown up swimming on a regular basis might not get what I’m describing here, but for the rest of us…have you ever had that sudden panic feeling in your stomach when the water threatens to pull your body under or a wave splashes against and over your face?

If you fight it, your body will sink. If you ride it, your body will just keep floating.

For me, the pull and the splash are often too much to endure; I naturally fight it. And, as a result, I naturally sink, water up my nose, and then, I’m treading water again, which is a lot more exhausting, but I’m in control of it, and somehow that feels better.

I’m more likely to run out of energy and drown this way, but hey, I’m in control. And that feels safer.


I’ll gravitate toward safety pretty much every time I have an option, even at the expense of fun…or growth. Even though I know I should put more than a toe in the water, I’ll often choose to sit on the beach, reading, watching all that “dangerous” fun happen, knowing that at least I’m “safe.”

It’s how I’m wired.

And I’ll be honest, I’m not always happy to be wired this way. I wish I were more spontaneous, edgier, more adventurous. I have no reason not to be. It’s not as if I’ve been terribly wronged by the waters of life. I haven’t nearly drowned or been shipwrecked. I’ve gotten a little seasick, but that’s about it.

My husband wishes I were more willing to head into the deep end. And he wished, rightfully, that I’d do a better job of trusting him to guide me. I suppose I’m a terrible submissive for not doing this well, especially since trust is essentially the foundation of any relationship, not just a D/s relationship. But I struggle with trust in certain regards. I mean, I trust him unconditionally when it comes to parenting and running our household. I trust him with my life, for goodness sake. So why is it that I don’t trust him completely when it comes to sex?


And if so…fear of what?

Loss of control?

What am I afraid will happen if I lose control?

That I’ll drown?

In yoga class yesterday, my instructor read from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. It’s a daybook of sorts that provides a daily essay with an activity to help make the day’s concepts more tactile.

The entry was called “Learning How to Float.” Have a listen (less than 2 minutes):

Maybe, for those of us who fear the unknown and struggle with trust, the idea is to reach a point of exhaustion when it comes to control. To be too tired to fight. As the entry notes…

…the more we resist, the more we feel our own weight and wear ourselves out.

Learning how to float, or trust, means we need to let go beneath the surface, letting the water hold us up, for…

…though we can practice relaxing our fear and meeting the deep, there is no real way to prepare for letting go other than to just let go.

When we stop moving, the water slows and stops fighting back. It offers natural buoyancy and continues, as long as we remain relaxed, to hold us up, even in the waves.

That we can’t stay there only affirms that we must choose the deep again and again in order to live fully.

There is nothing like being reminded that insisting on maintaining control robs us of a full life. Safety is just that, safety. It is not living. And living is, by it’s very nature, dangerous. 

So back to fear. And my own need for control and safety.

I set this post aside for a night, just to get my brain wrapped around it and decide what I really wanted to say about these concepts and how they apply to my own life (because they might apply to yours in a similar way).

What I came up with is that I have some trust issues when it comes to our intimate life, as does he. Our history has quite a few bumps regarding desire, sex, non-monogamy, infidelity, etc. So both of us are a little war-torn. And I think sometimes I minimize (even to myself) how much all of that has affected me.

If I was asked to do the trust fall test with him, I could do it without question. But, if I’m deeply, deeply honest with myself, I’d still get that panic-feeling in my stomach. I don’t like falling…or floating for that matter. I don’t like being at the mercy of things around me…other people, the weather, national events. I don’t “ride the waves” like some others can. No…I tense up…go rigid…flail around a bit until I get my bearings, even if that means I have to work harder. Likely even, when it comes to my own death, I will not “go gentle into that good night,” because I have to fight any difficulty that comes my way…head on. I trust my own ability to make use of catastrophe. I do not, however, trust the world to hold me gently through it.

I know he isn’t “the world.” And he isn’t out to pull me under. But, again, if I’m deeply, deeply honest, he has pulled me under before (as I have him), and that historical muscle memory is hard to overhaul, especially when it is subconscious.

Back when I was a young child, in swimming lessons, we had one day devoted to survival. It began with treading water and then we’d take breaks from it by floating on our backs for a few minutes. We didn’t just float. We floated for a purpose…to rest. And yes, I had to trust the water to hold me up, but as trust wasn’t the express purpose of the activity, I had no trouble doing it. Had the instructor simply asked me to trust the water and float, I’m not sure I’d have been able to do it with the same ease. Because even back then, it just wasn’t how I was wired.

So, yes…after listening to this thought-provoking entry from Mark Nepo, I can say I definitely need to learn to float (i.e. learn to trust), specifically when it comes to my sex life and my husband’s role in it. I’m not sure if there is a way to prepare for this or practice, a way to pull us out like feral cats, a little further every day. Actually, I suspect there is no “slow build” to trust, no matter what the experts might say. One must simply let go…jump…and decide to do so. Fully, I suppose. Because trusting a little bit means not trusting a lot. And continually not trusting in situations that require trust is exhausting…like treading water.

And I think we are both tired of holding ourselves up.

In this metaphor, though, he becomes my water, and I become his. And that takes a particular level of commitment…

…that we must choose the deep again and again in order to live fully.

(I am fully aware that this “trust issue” is at the core of my difficulty with submission. Believe me…it is nesting at the back of my mind, and I will return to it at some point, after more pressing relationship issues are dealt with.)

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  • sass c.

    I totally understand your struggle with trust. With all the things that go on in our world now, it’s hard to let go of control. It’s like so many things lie out of our control that if there’s one piece of life we can control, we want to hold onto it.

  • missy

    I can relate to a lot of this and think that the trust required for the sort of relationship you have/want is challenging. It goes way beyond the sorts of things you usually trust someone to do because you have to strip away all of your defences and hand yourself over. The level of vulnerability is huge and It is hard to understand if you are not in the same boat I think. Try not to be too hard on yourself. Many of us look like we are floating peacefully on our backs when actually there is a lot going in underneath to help to keep us afloat ❤️

    • Brigit Delaney

      It sort of reminds me of a duck’s feet…they move quite a bit below the surface to make the bird look like it is effortlessly floating along the surface.

  • Marie Louise

    You describe this so beautifully through your experience and how you feel floating in water. You’re so honest in this. Trust takes time to build to some extend I suppose, but I think you’re right in that you just have to let go, at some point. You can keep on waiting and waiting for trust to happen but in the end it’s a very active choice you have to make. It took me two years to realise that when I was with Lois.

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