I have always love the image and symbolism of the swan. A swan embodies grace, elegance and dignity. I equally love the term, swanning around, even though it has negative connotations in our culture because we value hard work over relaxation.
The verb ‘swan’ means move or behave in a relaxed way for pleasure.
Swanning around evokes a timeless, easeful way of being. One is not bound to time constraints but is free to relax and enjoy one’s time. Of course, there is a time and place to swan around but it seems to me that these times and places are evermore elusive.
What is the right time and place to swan around?
Is it only ok to swan around on a Sunday? Is it only ok to relax and take pleasure in life on one day of the week? Do we have to wait until we are on holiday to swan around? And even when we do find the elusive right time, do we actually allow ourselves the pleasure?
The swan symbolises serenity and making excellence look easy.
It can symbolise beauty and grace on the surface, yet allude to frantic paddling underneath the surface. If you feel like you are swimming against the tide of the hustle culture and only projecting calm but not actually feeling it, you are not alone.
We are encouraged to project an aura of calm even when we are stressed.
It can be helpful, even virtuous, to remain calm in stressful situations but that is not the same as pretending to be ok when we are not. There is merit in faking it until you make it but what if you never make it? What if you always feel like a fraud, smiling on the outside while suppressing anxiety on the inside?
Incongruence of internal and external realities eats away at the soul.
It’s ok, in fact, it’s necessary that we feel comfortable enough to be who we are and express how we are feeling. There is so much talk of being authentic but what if you don’t feel safe to be authentically you? Start small. Find your safe people. And slowly share more of yourself. Little by little integrating your inside with the outside.
Being a people pleaser is the shadow of the swan.
Many of us learn in childhood that we need to be some kind of perfect and please others in order to be loved and accepted. It can take some time to unlearn this behavioural pattern but it is worth the effort if you want to feel more authentic and whole. The only person you need to please is you.
Grace, elegance and pleasure can be your modus operandi.
The more you allow yourself to swan around, the more you unconsciously give others the permission to do the same. And if you find you are met with disapproval then you can rest assured that that is not your problem. You will trigger others because we live in a culture of hustle in which swanning is the scapegoat for laziness.
Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of learning, wisdom, mediation and music.
She sits upon a swan playing the lute and studying the Vedas. She symbolises divine grace, knowledge, dignity and artistic expression. How might you like to evoke these attributes of Saraswati in your delightful moments of simply swanning around?
Listen to our latest SWANNING meditation to enjoy a felt sense of elegance, pleasure and ease.
This article was inspired by Saraswati and Ross Gay, Loitering is Delightful.
Swan image by Valda Biteniece