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Thank you, Esther Williams

(Reprinted from AZ Yoga Community.)


Esther Williams gave me my first swimming lesson. I didn't know who she was at the time, but my parents told the story often as I grew older. My mother was a movie star, too - she was at Paramount and Miss Williams was at MGM. They were only a year apart in age, so they had a lot in common and became friends.


There were many swimming pools in Hollywood, and many children drowned when their governesses were looking the other way. My parents didn't want that to happen to their first baby; so even before I could walk, they determined that I would learn to swim. They only waited until I was old enough to understand and follow instructions.


The extraordinary, remarkable thing is that I remember it! This strong, wise, gentle Lady - who was so much like my mother but was not my mother - decided to give me my first experience of the water not in a huge frightening pool, but in a small round goldfish pond which she and I barely fit into. I remember the sandy colored flagstones around the edge. I also remember the Lady's clear gentle voice as she stood up to her breasts in the cool green, holding me and explaining - both to me and to my watching parents - that I needn't be afraid of the water at all; if I relaxed and rolled over onto my back, it would support me! My face would stay out of the water so I could breathe - and I could just float there effortlessly for as long as I wanted! Panic made people drown. Understanding and calmness kept them safe.


What a wonderful first teaching for a soul that had just awakened in a new body! This world held dangers, but knowledge could keep one safe. If I understood how something worked, I could align myself with it and it would support me. I wouldn't have to be afraid of it. I wouldn't have to fight it.


Years later I would read Rudyard Kipling's salutation in The Jungle Book: "We be of one blood, you and I." And years after that I would learn the Sanskrit word, Namaste.


What a blessing, to begin life with the idea that this beautiful world mainly wants to love us, and to be loved and understood by us in return. I was experiencing, without words, what some have called the web of life and others have called the Mother Goddess. I was feeling, in the depth of that little body, the absolute instinctive rightness of Yoga. 


I was learning how to be careful, but in a way that encouraged my own empowerment. I was also learning what a wonderful thing it was to be a teacher, and that teaching could be gentle and natural.


Of course, I had no words for these concepts at the time. But the infant brain is so sensitive to impressions that I can now see how those earliest moments set the mold for the personality I was to become. 


Over the years I have felt so bad for people who learned to swim when their fathers chucked them into the water and walked away, letting them thrash about and figure it out for themselves. That approach works, too; but it is so unnecessary! And it could not help but affect how those people viewed the world for the rest of their lives.


Esther Williams (another spelling would be Oestre) left this earth on June 6th, 2013 to explore the beauties and adventures of the next. Thank you, Lady. This one remembers.




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A student of esoteric traditions since the age of 16, Ted Czukor (Theo the Green) began teaching Yoga in 1976 and was adjunct faculty in the Maricopa, AZ Community Colleges for 26 years until retiring in 2013. Raised Christian but deeply influenced by Rosicrucianism, Vedanta, Hinduism and Buddhism, his Pagan worship has strong Gaia-Goddess tendencies. He is an Interfaith wedding celebrant and the author of several books, two of which are available online. He lives with his wife Ravyn-Morgayne in Sun City, Arizona.


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