Interview with Melon Dash
posted 6/7/02 (Note: The Transpersonal Swimming Institute has since moved its headquarters to Sarasota, Florida.)
Among the most respected of swim teachers in the United States is M. Ellen Dash. Here is how her teaching method of 31+ years works.
RelaxnSwim: How could a new student believe that you understand their fear?
Melon: I’d say, “I know you are not afraid of kicking your legs in a flutter kick if you are lying on your bed. You are not afraid of doing an armstroke on land. I know that you are not afraid of exhaling your air into the air. You are afraid of losing control. You may be afraid of losing control if you put your face in water, as you might inhale.
“You may be afraid of losing control in the middle of deep water, where you can’t stand up or reach the side. You are afraid of panicking and having that frantic feeling you’ve had before when you’ve been in water over your head.”
“Once students learn how to be in control and remain in control, which is an incredibly simple skill, then learning the mechanics is easy.”
RnS: What does your student really want to learn?
M: We don’t teach bubble blowing, kicking or swimming mechanics. We teach you what you really want to know: “How do I remain in control in the water, shallow and deep?”
Once students learn how to be in control and remain in control, which is an incredibly simple skill, then learning the mechanics is easy. But mechanics cannot be learned nor expected to be learned when someone is not in control.
RnS: That’s exactly what I would think if I were one of your students. So how to remain in control? How might the first lesson begin?
M: First, you are invited to share your story of how you became afraid in water with others in the class. You will find out that you are not alone.
Then we talk about you and I being not just a body, but spirit: a spirit that comes and goes from the body all day long; it goes when you daydream, comes back when someone knocks on the door.
It goes when you sleep, comes back when the alarm goes off, goes when you panic, comes back when you come back…but when you panic, there’s no control over when or if it comes back.
Your fear is usually the fear of “losing it” (panicking) and about drowning. For this reason, we teach people to prevent panic and remain in control.
RnS: How do your spirit’s comings and goings affect how you learn?
M: When you panic or are afraid you might panic, you “leave.” If you “leave,”you cannot learn.
When you know how to be here, and remain here, you can then learn.
This learning comes as naturally as when you learned to walk: you learned to walk when you were ready, naturally and without help because you were completely present.
This is how our students learn.