Frequently Asked Questions

The Laws of Learning, applied to swimming: a work in progress

  1. You can’t learn a physical skill if you’re not in control.
  2. Going at your own pace is the optimal pace of learning.
  3. If you’re having fun, you’re more open and willing than if you’re not having fun.
  4. If you have a choice, you’re more open and willing than if you don’t have a choice.
  5. Comfort contributes to learning. Discomfort distracts.
  6. You have to be in your body in order to feel.
  7. You have to be able to feel the water in order to learn to swim.
  8. Direction comes to us via feelings.
  9. If someone feels comfortable, safe and curious, learning is spontaneous and effortless.
  10. If the student remains in the 1st Circle, learning is inevitable and guaranteed.
  11. Every normally-abled person (and many disabled people) can overcome fear in water, learn to swim, and learn strokes.
  12. In order to change a movement, it must be allowed to be the way it is.

These laws are applicable to learning any topic.

They’re explained and used most comprehensively in the book, Conquer Your Fear of Water by Melon Dash, Authorhouse, 2006. They’re also presented in the DVD, The Miracle Swimmer and the podcast, The Learn to Swim Show. They’re taught in all Miracle Swimming coursess. They’re demonstrated and fully taught in the Miracle Swimming Mindfulness Instructor Training.

The foundation of optimal learning is comfort: presence of mind, having a choice, having permission, and having fun. From Presence automatically arises Control; from having Fun comes Learning and Healing; from Choice comes Curiosity; from Permission, Willingness. When each type of safety is provided as described at the right, the only possible result is Freedom. In swimming lessons, it’s freedom in water, shallow and deep.

The 5 Circles Teaching Method provides a successful path in all the places you’ve been stumped—AND in the places that your teaching has worked just fine. Panic-prevention is part of The 5 Circles which is missing from traditional teaching.

In teaching swimming, The 5 Circles Teaching Method is especially helpful for teaching fearful adults, sinkers, people who are stuck and kids who keep crying. You’ll have a way to explain where students are in their learning. Adult students will understand for the first time. Children as well as adults experience The 5 Circles approach as permission, compassion, and reliable success.

Equally important, every student needs to know The 5 Circles: everyone needs to know where they are relative to the 1st Circle in order to understand that being in control of oneself is a location, and one’s greatest success and safety in any endeavor come while one is in control of him/herself.

An understanding of The 5 Circles is essential to maximal personal safety. Every person needs to know how to keep him/herself in the 1st Circle and how to prevent panic—flying out to the 5th Circle—to have the best chance of saving his life in a life-threatening situation.

Tension and relaxation. Hurriedness and calm. Stiff movements and fluid ones. Reaching for the wall frantically and approaching it slowly. Smiles and laughter, and sometimes tears of joy.

In 1983, Mary Ellen (Melon) Dash was informed that the next part of her life would be about teaching swimming to adults who were afraid in water.

When she started offering Swimming for Adults Afraid in Water classes, she asked herself, “How does fear work?” A few days later, the first three circles of the diagram appeared in the window when she was daydreaming. She noted that they were in response to her question, but felt there was something more. A few days later while daydreaming again, the other two circles appeared. At that time, she felt the answer was complete. There have been no changes to it since 1983. The diagrams have been tested tens of thousands of times. The system cannot fail. An instructor or student can only fail to use it.