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My bathing cap is too tight; it doesn’t hold the cascade of hair that someone’s piled on my head in order to squash it on, pull it tight until it covers my ears. When I take it off later, my hair will be sodden, snarled, and the long strands will catch in the cap, causing me to yelp in pain.

I wear it, because I want to pretend I am immune from the water: that even when I am submerged, my body will be safe from all that scary wetness.

If we wore goggles back then, I’d have put them on, too. But goggles haven’t been invented yet—at least not for child swimmers like me. I squint my eyes tightly against the sun, against the stinging chlorine, against the very large dollop of zinc oxide that has been applied to my nose in precaution against sunburn, and allow myself to descend into the whorling wet that awaits.

It’s summer, I’m at the pool, I’m maybe 4 or 5, and I’m learning to swim.

It’s not an easy surrender.

I gasp, my heart pounds, and I catch signs of myself in reflection: I’m a green-capped alien, the water is dangerously blue, every ripple like a flash of light along the pool’s floor, and I’m hanging on to the only safety I know: my father’s arms, my father’s chest, my father’s neck, everything sturdy and comforting, covered with blond curling hair.

If he lets go, I’m sure I’ll die.

If I let go, I’m sure I’ll drown.

I’m learning to swim, he thinks.

I’m trying to survive, I’m sure.

My body is rigid with panic, my arms clamped tight around him, and yet we don’t stop. We go deeper: past my knees, past my waist, until I’m up to my neck in water.

And even as we submerge deeper, I hear his voice in my ear: relax, you’re doing fine, it’s okay to let go.

Relax. You’re doing fine. It’s okay to let go.

Which I realize now, many decades later and 12 years after his passing, were the only real lessons I ever needed to learn from him.

The father is also a part of our soul circle; of our primary circle. Many souls are lucky to know our fathers well and long; in this loving relationship, our fathers bestow upon us a trust in the world that cannot be taken away. When our father is here, when our father is in the house, all is right with the world.

Others recall different teachings from their fathers. There may be grave difficulties in the relationship: karmic wounds that are beyond forgiving.

Still others don’t know of their fathers, or their fathers flit in and out of their lives, undependable at best, heart-breaking at worst.

Sinking back into those long time ago memories, I can see other fathers at the pool now, encouraging, berating, training, teaching, ignoring, punishing, present, authentic, cruel, real, loving, gentle.

All those fathers, teaching lessons.

My own father took me continually to deeper depths, letting go of me even as I held on.

Relax. You’re doing fine. It’s okay to let go.

These are the soul lessons I’ve been working on, lately, with nary a swim cap in sight, feet fully on dry land.

You, as daughters and sons of other fathers, will have your own lessons to learn.

We all receive what we need, even on summer days in the pool.

What have you learned, in accepting or rejecting your own father’s teachings? The male energy moves in all of us, whether we are male or female.

It is a part of us, just as everything is a part of us. Take a moment now, and be grateful for what you’ve learned—the lessons your father taught you, and also those lessons he failed to teach. Allow yourself to open your heart to all of it.

(Excerpted from Living a Life of Gratitude.)

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Sara Wiseman is a Nautilus award-winning author and visionary teacher of spiritual intuition. She has reached tens of thousands of students worldwide via her books, courses, podcasts, blog and music. Sara is the founder of Intuition University, hosts the popular podcasts Ask Sara and Spiritual Psychic with over 1.6 million listeners, writes the Daily Divine blog and is top contributor to DailyOM. She has produced four award-winning music albums with her band Martyrs of Sound. She lives in the Pacific Northwest.

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