On the 36th episode of the Child Safety Source, we’ll be speaking with Melon Dash!
Melon has a storied history when it comes to swimming and pool safety. For one, she’s been a competitive swimmer all of her life. In 1982, she left her job as an administrative assistant in Berkeley, CA. She founded Miracle Swimming for Adults (MSA) in 1983.
Through Miracle Swimming, Melon Dash helps adults to overcome their fears of drowning. Put plainly, the company prepares folks for getting back in the water. It gets them to a place where they are ready for swimming lessons.
In 2017, Melon stepped down as CEO at MSA to pursue the next level of Miracle Swimming’s reach. As a consultant for MSA and the president of Miracle Swimming Institute, she demonstrates the imperative use of the universal laws of learning in order to teach adults who are afraid to swim and ultimately end drowning worldwide. Learning to swim is inevitable and guaranteed using these laws, which are founded on mindfulness. Since 1983, over 5,000 students and 65 instructors have graduated from her programs.
Speaking with Melon Dash
In each episode, Life Saver Pool Fence’s Eric Lupton speaks with people who dedicated their time and energy to keeping others safe. Today, we’re pleased to present this full interview with Melon Dash:
Learning More About the 5 Circles Teaching Method
The 5 Circles Teaching Method is a model of learning that is based on the concept that people are spiritual beings who live in a physical world. Whereas most teachings address the mind or the body, little instruction takes into account that each of us is spirit. According to the 5 Circles Teaching Method, our spirits behave differently than our physical bodies. The Teaching Method helps students to remain in the moment, instead of daydreaming or panicking. This aids the students to learn a new skill.
To date, the “laws” of the 5 Circles Teaching Method have been applied to people; however, it is thought that they’re likely applicable to animals as well. The two requirements for success with adult students are an understanding, by student and instructor, of The 5 Circles, and an instructor who teaches people how to keep spirit and body together. With children or special needs students, only the instructor must understand the The 5 Circles.
To learn more about Melon’s teaching method, please visit the official website: 5CirclesTeachingMethod.com.
To learn more about Miracle Swimming, click here.
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Below is a direct transcript of the Child Safety Source interview with Melon Dash from September 14th, 2018:
#36 Melon Dash
Eric Lupton: How’s it going?
Melon Dash: Great, how are you?
Eric: Fantastic, you are probably my favorite name of anybody that we’ve done so far. It was an awesome lady named CJ Jones because I enjoyed as I’m saying it but Melon Dash has been fantastic
Melon: It does stick in people’s memory.
Melon: It’s a nick name.
Eric: I have a rolodex next to my stand that has like my calendar and stuff I’m doing on it and someone saw that I’m interviewing Melon Dash tomorrow and we had last night and she was like, it’s not like a drink? Like no, no, it’s an awesome person and she is really cool, teaching… getting people to overcome their fears kind of thing. And but, so that’s what we’re here to talk about. You have an amazing company called Miracle Swimming and if I get this correct, Miracle Swimming helps adults overcome their fear of water and of drowning and essentially gets them into a place where they can learn how to swim and then give some swim lessons, is that right?
Melon: Yes, we have learned from our clientele that overcoming fear of water is learning to swim and at the moment, people overcome their fear of deep water they can swim it. Doesn’t mean they can do strokes, but they then say, ‘oh, now I can swim’ and once people learn to be safe in deep water, they say I can swim. And, we agree they can’t swim because they’re safe out there then they have attention to spare for learning what to do with their arms and legs; in other words, learning strokes. But until you’re sure you’re not gonna die, you don’t have that attention. First, you have to learn to swim and then you can learn strokes.
Eric: Right, it’s kind of that old, you know, if you think you can or you can’t, either way you’re right, and when it comes to swimming, I think it’s the same thing if you think it’s impossible you can’t do it, you’re correct, and if you think you can, then you probably to learn.
Melon: Yeah right, I know good… a lot of people have given up on learning to swim because they’ve tried lessons three or four times in their lives, and every time they leave thinking maybe this isn’t for me. But, everyone can learn to swim, it’s just a different process than people think. It’s not about learning what to do with your arms and legs, it’s learning how the water works and learning how to be completely present all the time, learning to be… learning not to panic, learning how you… why you don’t have to panic. And once people can be themselves in the water, then they start really overcoming their fear.
Eric: So, I mean, you have a really thoughtful evolved conscientious approach that, at least to me, sounds like you didn’t sprout up. It’s not intuitive, you know. I think most people think that teaching someone to swim is teaching them what to do with their arms and legs, and it seems what you’re doing is, you know, an evolution of something you probably started with previously and has grown into what it is now. What made you decide to do this? No, so if you have your, you know, I’m a giant nerd so I’m into superheroes, superheroes have origin stories, you know, so you know, where they come from. So, what is your origin story what made you decide to go from whatever your background was. Cuz, I was feeling it wasn’t this into what you do now.
Melon: Oh thanks, that’s a great question. I used to be a Red Cross water safety instructor standing on the deck at Keene State College teaching undergraduate beginning swimming classes. I was a graduate teaching assistant and I had four semesters of teaching this, and I realized after a couple semesters that I was looking at 20 undergraduates in the pool; I was teaching beginning swimming, and they weren’t able to learn. Half of them were and half of them weren’t, and I was concerned with the half that weren’t. And I thought I’m teaching beginning swimming, there’s nothing that comes before beginning swimming, but it’s too advanced for 10 of the 20 students in this class. Why are they unable to learn this? It’s not their fault; I’m not teaching the right thing. And, I went to the Dean and I said, you know, I have… I know what I’m doing, I’ve been a competitive swimmer our life, I love what I’m doing here, I know how to teach swimming but I have these people who I’m not serving well. I need to teach them something that comes before beginning swimming, and I have a sense of what it is, but I can’t teach both groups at the same time in the same class. Can I have a class that’s just called pre beginning swimming or something like that? And, he said well, that’s a great idea. We… it takes a lot of red tape to change the undergraduate curriculum, why don’t we offer a class through the adult education program. They’ll pay you to teach it, will market it and you can teach; and the kids can come. And, I said okay, and that was the beginning. We had a class that was in the shower, starting in the shower. We had… actually, the circular went out to all community, families and people drill from 50 miles away. It was called swimming for adults afraid in water, and we had six people in that first class. And, they said I’ve never heard of a class like this, I’ve tried to earn to swim so many times. My brother drowned in our family pond and, you know, they had all kinds of stories.
Eric: What year was this?
Melon: This was in 1978.
Melon: And, to make a long story, which has already been long…
Eric: I like to say to make a long story longer
Melon: Yeah, what I learned in that time was that what they needed to know was not what to do with their arms and legs? What they needed to know was how can I be comfortable in the water? How can I not be afraid? How can I understand that the water holds me up when I thinking that I would sink? How can I keep water out of my nose? How can I not have it bother my eyes… which isn’t a really big deal but it gets it’s a point of attention, how can I not panic? And these things have nothing to do with push and glide off the wall or flutter kick or even breathing. So, I started class then I… and then I finished my graduate teaching assistantship. So, I was finished with my four semesters there and a few years went by, I went and I coached at Harvard for a little while, I got my master’s degree in blah blah blah and then a few years later, I was asking myself, what am I supposed to be doing with my life? This isn’t it.
Well, I was gonna say so you were already doing swim instruction and water safety in college, what was your plan?
Melon: My plan was to coach. I wanted to coach swimming.
Melon: I had taken an undergraduate degree and all the things that put together would create a really good background for coaching swimming at the highest level.
Eric: So, you done really well in competitive swimming in high school I’m guessing, and college…
Melon: Yes, and so my undergraduate degree was an exercise physiology nutrition, and then I took all a psychology and all the physics and chemistry and all the stuff that talks about, you know, what happens in the cell when during exercise and all that kind of thing. I love that, but after a couple years out of school, I thought …and I was an assistant coach at Harvard… I thought, you know, the answer to optimal performance in any competition is partly physical, but mostly mental. If I am gonna choose a direction for myself to get where I want to go, do I want to go further in the field of exercise physiology or do I want to go into the field of humanistic education and mental performance and that sort of thing. And, I decided that I wanted to do the latter; I thought this is where it’s at, it’s in what you’re thinking but I was 24 I think at the time… and though I had made the decision to go in the direction of humanistic education, I got a golden opportunity to get my master’s degree and Exercise physiology, at the best school in the country, fourth. And, I went and did that because the golden opportunity was there right, and I realized…
Eric: You can always come back but you got to do that when you can?
Melon: Yeah, so I later realized, okay, my heart really is in the humanistic education field and that’s where I’ve gone since then, that’s what Miracles Swimming really is taking off from. But, I’m happy to have the background in exercise physiology. I decided not to coach. When I left my job in 1980, being an administrative assistant for an orthopedic surgeon, I thought okay what am I supposed to do with my life, you know. Everybody is born to do something, what am I supposed to do? And, it came down to coaching swimming. I was in Berkeley at the time or teaching adults who are afraid in water and I thought there are five Olympic level swimming coaches in the Bay Area right now; San Francisco Bay Area, it’s gonna take me forever to pay my dues. Who knows if I’ll ever get there but there’s nobody teaching adults who are afraid in water and I really feel like I want to do that. So, that’s what I did; I started that 1983.
Eric: Sort of, that blue ocean strategy, you know, doing something that no one else is doing rather than trying to get an incremental gain and, you know, a crowded field which, you know, makes sense and you know, you were addressing a problem that no one else was addressing which I think is important.
Eric: So, you know, did it start off with I mean, you can’t have already had an idea that it was more mental than physical, how did those first lessons kind of shape up?
Melon: Well, it was really fabulous honestly. I had no money to… I was on unemployment at the time and I had no money to advertise the class, so I just had three people at a time in a class. And so, it was very personal and very individually targeted and based and I would… and, I knew what their fears were but I knew that I had to have them talk first. So, in every class, we had… in the beginning, it was a half hour of talking and I would say, let’s talk about the experiences you had in the water that made you afraid and let’s talk about your beliefs about the water. So, I could get to know what was underlying everything, and they said they would say things like, my uncle threw me in the water when we were kids and it worked for my cousin’s to learn to swim, but for me, I came away terrified and I’ve been terrified ever since; or, I was at a high school party and I told everybody and it was a pool party and I told everybody not to throw me in because they were threatening to and they threw me in anyway and someone had to pull me out and they realized I was telling a truth; or, I took swimming lessons and my teacher said that they were… he was gonna catch me and then he just moved away and I couldn’t make it and I’ve been afraid ever since. Everyone has a story, and so I was learning, okay, people’s trust was breached people told others that they couldn’t swim and they weren’t… believed they had an experience that was so scary to them and they had no way to overcome it. No one… even if they took swimming lessons later, they didn’t overcome their fear, and no one knew what the process was to help somebody overcome their fear once something’s theory has happened. So, this was all a mental thing or emotional, and we… so, we talked about these kinds of things and also our approach to learning to swim in the talking part of class and the approach was this…the most important thing in the water is to be comfortable, it’s not to execute moves with your arms and legs. Because, if you’re struggling to do that what’s the point? The most important thing is to find a way to be in control and feeling at ease and safe all the time. And, they said oh, that sounds good, I never tried that before, and they were happy. And, they were like… they were, you know, like, why didn’t… never anyone ever to say that before. That just makes sense. So, we… I made it up, you know, I had never done that class, and Kien, but it was evolving and then I took… now, this may sound crazy but I’m just gonna say it anyway, I was taking a psychic class in Berkeley. You can take second classes in Berkeley. Yeah, it was fantastic, and in that class learned to trust pictures that floated across my mind, if I was grounded, if I felt like I was calm, you know, if I’m nervous not so much. But, if I’m really calm and a thought passes through my mind I go, that was probably put there for a reason. I’m picking up on something, trust that. And so, my first beginning classes evolved out of that sort of thing, and in my psychic class, we were being taught something about how the spirit leaves the body at different times during the day. And, I thought no, this is the problem when people panic people, leave their body, you know, when you and I are out of it, we can’t get our bodies to do what we want them to do. And, when people panic in the water, they thrash, they’re not in control of not inhaling underwater, not getting water in their nose, realizing that they’re at the surface. And, all they have to do is push down a couple inches and they’ll come up. These things don’t occur to people when they’re panicking, that is the problem.
Eric: And also, even with the instinctive drive response kicks in and you’re doing the arms out, you know, or the doggy-paddling motion. And, you know, you can’t cry for help, you’re literally outside your body, you know. You can’t even, you know, reach out and touch someone next to you, because you’re in this physiological instinctive johnny response that prevents you from doing anything, you know.
Melon: Thank you for saying it for me. That’s exactly right, you are out of your body. And swimming teachers don’t know about that. For the most part, they don’t know that people are out of their body; If they’re afraid it doesn’t make any sense to try to tell them what to do with their body if they’re not in it. So, our classes were built on learning how to stay in your body and how to notice when you’re starting to leave and bring yourself back, and then how to gain so much confidence in yourself that you’re always in your body. You don’t have to worry about leaving anymore and that’s what our classes have been built on for thirty five years. And, they stand alone, there is just nothing else that works as well. That’s a miracle swimming.
Eric: So, how has the course evolved from 35 years ago to now?
Melon: No, it hasn’t changed very much, we still teaching … we still teach the basic five circles teaching system that I …that’s what came out of the second class by I asked myself in that class, how’s doe fear work? Anyway, and a couple days later, it came to me. It showed up in my window, honestly, I was daydreaming sitting in my recliner and I was just daydreaming out the window, and the first three circles of this diagram. I wish I had it here to show you; was in this in the window. And, I thought wow, I think that’s the beginning of the answer to my question. It’s not the whole answer, but it’s a start and I forgot about it. And, a couple days later, I was doing the same thing and the other two circles showed up in the window, and I thought that’s it. Now, I have the whole thing, and I wrote it down and I it was five circles. It was just a diagram, there were no words and I thought okay, what are these things, what does this mean? And, it came to me; right away I knew what it meant. That has not changed in 35 years, it was right. I took it to my class the next day, and I explained it and they said, why hasn’t anyone ever shown us that before? Why hasn’t anyone told us this? This is exactly what happens to me when I become afraid, and it didn’t need any evolution. I’ve just come up with more words to describe each circle and to show um let’s see…I have them here on my book you want me to get the five circles never least tell me about them.
Eric: Yeah, okay
Melon: If I can leave the screen for a second, I’ve got them over here.
Eric: Yeah, go for it. Yeah, we’ll check out your place there; she has a printer. I need her printer, everything gonna print anything until you do.
Melon: Okay. This… these are
Eric: Up a little bit more. There you go,
Melon: There we go. Okay, this is what it looks like when we lose it; let me go from calm to panic.
Eric: Yeah, okay.
Melon: Calm is the first circle here, that’s what we look like a circle is where your attention is and the stick figure is your body. So, when our attention is right here with our body, you know, like when we’re reading the Sunday paper on the couch, we are in our bodies, we’re feeling calm, we’re in control. We can learn, we have… we feel safe. And, this is where we want to be; to learn when we start getting nervous, we start to move up and the circle here is going… that’s a representation of our attention or our spirit, our self, our presence of mind,
Eric: Your consciousness.
Melon: Yeah exactly, and when we’re nervous we say we have cold feet as you can see, or people feel weak in the knees, and we’re… they’re no longer grounded. Okay, the first circle is grounded or centered, the second circle is nervous. Now, you don’t feel terrible, yep go ahead
Eric: That’s interesting because you know we can the Neeson’s an expression but literally the circles moved up and it’s the feet and knees that are affected by your by the absence of your yourself there
Melon: And that’s where the expression came from,
Eric: That’s cool.
Melon: And then, in the third circle when we’re really getting scared, this is when we’re not having fun anymore, right consciousness has left our bodies. So far, that… it’s not down in our stomachs and that’s why we say I had a butterfly… I have butterflies in my stomach or a knot in my stomach. We also say my hands and feet are feel clammy it’s because they’re outside the circle okay this is a place we never want to go to when in learning you never want to go to this spot, and then the next stage of fear is when we’ve left even further. Now, we’re gone up to our neck, and we say in our everyday language paralyzed by fear or scared stiff, and people who have left that far literally cannot move and many people have had that feeling before, they couldn’t move anything. And then, the last stage is panic. When you lose it all together, when we lose it all together, we say I lost it. I was out of it, gone, not home, freaked out. So, those are the five circles; that’s what came to me in Berkeley in 1983, that has been the beginning of every single class an instructor training I’ve taught since then. And, it’s really the subject of every lesson we give, and every class we give, whether its beginning swimming or freestyle or snorkeling or scuba diving, it’s all about staying in the first circle.
Eric: That’s really cool. Have you applied that methodology or that that concept to other things that induce fear besides crowding?
Melon: Definitely, I’ve had to have used it in my own life many, many, many times, and other people too have to. I mean, that’s probably the most common comment that comes from our graduates; this is usable in all of my life, this has changed the way I am with my family, has changed how I am at work, it’s changed how I sit in traffic. Yeah, it’s not about swimming, it’s really about learning, it’s about mindfulness.
Eric: You asked me to tell you about any comments, Bob Pratt. If I’m a giant fan of he’s a good friend of mine, water safety warrior for sure. He just left a comment, it says, “As an adult learner, the five circles makes perfect sense. Drowning’s an out is an out-of-body experience, can Melon comment on how even good swimmers can move from calm to nervous to fear to panic? Hold on, let me see the rest of this… The fear panic as conditions change what’s in panic, once in panic, is it possible to move back to calm?
Melon: Yes, hi Bob, thanks for the question. It is possible to move from panic to calm, but it’s better to prevent it and this is what we teach. Once you’re in full-blown panic, you’re so out of control that it’s just luck unless you’ve been able to practice it a lot. And who wants to practice that? It’s just luck if you can pull yourself back to calm or back to control. You probably won’t be able to pull yourself all the way back to the first circle, but the second would be okay. What we teach people to do is let a good swimmer, okay and the first thing that crops into my mind is Fran Crippen. Ok, Fran Crippen world-class long-distance swimmer drowned in the UAE doing a race years ago, and we all were left with the idea how it is a swimmer who was that good drown? And, we often hear this; a person drowns, it’s in the news and people say that person was a good swimmer. Well, it wasn’t that they didn’t know how to swim obviously, it was that they something happened and they lost their life because of that and we don’t obviously, we don’t know what happened. So, we can just conjecture what happened, and with someone like that, my guess is… and I think this is a universal thing that happens… a little thing goes wrong. But, an athlete like Fran would say okay, I can put up with that, and for Fran it could have been a thirst thing, because we all know that he was really thirsty; the water was too hot. It’s that sort of thing and he was pushing it, he had told his coach or whoever, his handlers were, I’m thirsty, but he didn’t stop to drink and this was the first signal that something was off. And, what I teach in my classes is when you get the first signal, stop and take care of it. Don’t go past that because the first signal is your second circle, you’re in a second circle and your body is telling you to take care of this and don’t go until you’ve taken care of it. But, we don’t especially high achievers, especially athletes who have been trained keep going even when it hurts
Eric: People who are what I describe is ‘too tough’ for their own good.
Melon: Yes, yes, exactly. And so, if you bypass message your body is giving you, you’re asking for trouble. Many times in life it doesn’t bring trouble, it just brings, you know, our coaches tell us it makes us tougher, and you know, I went to all that myself, and in some ways it did you know, it built a lot of confidence in me. However, it’s not always the right thing to do, and we… so, if you bypass the second circle, when your body is saying is uncomfortable I need to take care of it and you get to the next level, it’s more uncomfortable and now your body is saying hey, I really don’t like this, you know. For Fran, who knows what it was, it may be when he spoke up and said hey I’m thirsty. I mean, he wouldn’t… he might have not mentioned it the first couple times, but when he got thirsty enough to mention it that was his third circle and he needed to, and you know a silent moment for Fran and his family. I’m just guessing here but I’m trying to use this as a as an example of how we push ourselves and how it doesn’t work when your body gives you a signal like that. You’d have to respond to it, so you get the idea here; don’t go past the second circle. Just don’t do it, it’s the only way to take care of yourself. And, we …when we teach this to our students in class, they say oh thank you so much for giving me permission to listen to what my voice inside is telling me. I’m always told to ignore that, but safety is listening to it and this is how we have virtually a hundred percent success teaching. Does that is your question Bob?
Eric: I think it does, yeah and you know, I think a lot of people can relate with that idea right that you move from one stage to the next. So, the other half of this question was moving from panic back to calm.
Melon: Yeah, that how do you do that? You do it by knowing how it works. Like, when people know about the five circles, they go… you might be able to say to yourself, oh, I have lost it here, you know, how do I get myself back? I can’t remember the road map and I’ve never practiced this before, here I am in this situation I’ve never been before, what do I do? Okay, five circles. The only way to bring yourself back is to feel, okay, that’s the answer; whether or not you can do it is another thing. But, if you’re panicking, you’re not in your body, to come back to your body, you have to feel feeling happens here and you can’t feel unless you are here. So, if you can practice being in a panicky situation. And then feeling so that you get good at it, then you have a good chance of being able to do that in a situation. But, who practices that and who wants to practice it?
Eric: And you’re right, if you’re cognizant of kind of what’s going on and you have a visualization like the five circles that you can latch on to, and you’re kind of you know, been taught to be self-aware of your mental state, you know, that alone can help you kind of, you know, get a grasp on what’s going on and maybe wrangle it back into control
Melon: Hopefully prevent it. Because when our students can feel themselves, when we say wait a sec, what circle was that? They will go, that was the third yeah I really didn’t like that. They’re starting to develop an awareness of where they are and then they’re starting to say, oh wait a sec, this doesn’t feel good, I’m just gonna go back to for the first circle, you know, even if I have to back up for steps which doesn’t look like progress in other swimming teachers mind. Or… and maybe even their family’s mind, it doesn’t look like progress, but they know it is progress and it’s the progress they came to make.
Eric: So, Bob says the reason that he mentioned that is because they there was a very experienced swimmer who drowned on Lake Erie this weekend and he’s involved in those lakes, and he also mentions that they teach a strategy called flip, float, follow which is kind of like stop, drop, roll and you know, I think it’s just… he’s just comparing, you know. But, yeah, I think, you know, that self-awareness is really important, you know, if you know what could happen and what it looks like ahead of time, you know, that changes everything.
Melon: Yes, yeah, we say everyone needs to know about the five circles, you just need to know where you are relative to being in control and honor that. And, it’s not part of the conversation and teaching swimming, I don’t think it’s part of the conversation in anything except for Arianna Huffington, you know speaking about mindfulness and being and keeping yourself sane. And, it’s something what we need to bring.
Eric: I’m going to think about it next time I’m, you know, giving a public talk on stage, you know. I think it’s a daily is useful for that too or really anything where you got nervous yeah, I think, it’s really important. So, I was about to say that you should write a book about this, but I think you have… yes
Melon: Yes, I have three in the works but I do have… I’ll show you this; this book is for people who are afraid in water and for teachers and it has everything about how to overcome your fear of water. And now, I’m working on a book for instructors so that you can learn how to teach adults were afraid in water. It’s not about teaching them arms and legs, it has nothing to do with that. It’s about what’s going on in here and staying in the first circle.
Eric: Have you considered writing a book just on the five circles on fear and dealing with fear?
Melon: Yes, that’s another book, yes. It’s called The Spirituality of Learning, and I think that’s the one I really should do next. Because, it’s short and sweet and I can get it done and off my list. Yes, thank you.
Eric: I think that it’s the biggest impact. I would personally, if I was doing it, I would name it The Five Circles that would be my title.
Melon: Mm-hmm, nice.
Eric: You know, like the similar to The Four Agreements by Louise… I forget its full name, but you’re The Four Agreements.
Eric: You know, I think the five circles make sense, that’s what I would do.
Melon: Thank you.
Eric: Yeah so, we had talked a little bit about… because my area is, you know, primarily water safety for children, and specifically pool safety for children, and you had told me something that I had thought of a little bit but I hadn’t put a lot of thought into, and then as soon as you said it kind of like the force, the five circles, a light bulb went off and it sounded a hundred percent right; and that was that the solution to child drowning is cross-generational. And you can probably get a lot more mileage out of teaching parents to swim before kids learn how to swim. If you get the parents, and adults, to know how to swim, then you can trigger a cross-generational response that will lower drowning rates in children. And, I thought that was brilliant and I wanted to make sure we talked about that.
Melon: Thank you, yes. I didn’t know that this is something my classes have taught me. The solution to ending drowning is adults who’re afraid in water, and adults who can swim but don’t know what messages to pass on to their children. The UN just put out a call in March saying help us with this drowning problem that’s become an epidemic worldwide, and I sent a proposal to six countries saying this is not what you’re thinking, you know. We’ve tried certain things for years and years and it doesn’t work and it’s because what really needs to happen is all those parents of the children are drowning in mass numbers in Southeast Asia in various places don’t know how to keep their kids safe; they don’t know how to model water safety, they’re not giving their kids probably, I don’t know this for sure I just know what I’ve seen in this country, they’re probably not giving their kids exactly the right messages about water safety and they’re not teaching their kids to swim. When adults who are afraid in water take their children to swimming lessons, the swimming school should ask them can you swim yourself. And the question has to be asked a certain way it’s not, ‘can you do this? Because everyone will say yes, I can do this, but that’s not what being able to swim means. They need to ask the appearance, can you rest in deep water over your head away from the wall for 10 minutes calmly, and if they say yes and if it’s true then these people can swim and they’re gonna be giving the right kinds of messages about swimming to their kids, or at least there’s a better chance that they will. They may be seeing don’t go past your knees, you know, because they’re afraid for their kids. But, at least they’re not telling them things like many non-swimmer adult parents. I mean, that’s where my parents will say their kids, for instance, ‘if you open your eyes underwater your vision will go dark.’ This was something that one of my little kids that I had a spate of teaching kids lessons here in Sarasota for free for a while a few years ago which was so instructive, and these are the kinds of things that they were saying, ‘I’m afraid, my mom told me this…’ We had a two-year-old and floaties that who accompanied his grandmother to swimming lessons one day, and when his grandmother was putting her face under water trying to get a ring off the bottom having the time of her life, the two-year-old was screaming, no grandma, no grandma, you’ll drown. And I said, where did this little boy get this idea? And the grandmother said, from us. So, the parents, not knowing, is creating generations of kids not knowing, and there’s a statistic out there that everybody probably knows now, that there’s an 88% chance that a parent who doesn’t know how to swim will have kids not knowing how to swim as well. So anyway, the teaching adult parents who don’t know how to swim, how the water works and how to swim before their kids are born, in other words, before their parents, I think that should be… I mean, we can’t require that, but it ought to be required, you know, before you get your license to have kids.
Eric: You know, it reminds me of…I was talking to Mick Nelson, and Mick Nelson works for US Swimming which is the organizational body that deals with the sport of swimming when it comes to the Olympics. So, you know the US Swim sports team, the facilities, the whole thing, anything having to do with swimming and the Olympics they do. And so, that’s the very highest level of swimming and they have an organization called the Make a Splash Foundation which teaches kids how to swim. And, I had asked him why does the U.S. Swim Olympic team care about teaching little kids how to swim? And he said well, to get Olympians you need kids who never swim, right, it starts, you know, you start early, right. If you need to teach a three-year-old how to swim to get a 21 year old who can get a gold medal in the Olympics, and it takes that long right. So, you know …and I was like oh, that’s that makes sense that’s it really, you know, enlightened mature way of thinking about it. But, I like that you’ve taken it even further before you get a three-year-old who can learn how to swim, who can become an Olympian. You have to get their parents first. That’s really interesting.
Melon: Yeah, and imagine how many more people we would have in the pool of possible Olympians right if all parents knew how to swim and so all kids learned how to swim because their parents taught them; there doesn’t have to be expensive swimming lessons for kids to teach them how to be safe in the water and I’m not saying close the swimming schools, we need the swimming schools. But, what there needs to be, in my opinion, is parents who know how the water works and know how to swim, which doesn’t mean learning stroke, knowing strokes. It means they are safe in deep water, they can teach their children for free by playing and it’s so much fun. And then, when the kids want to learn strokes, they go to the swim schools and the swim schools can be in charge of teaching efficiency and swimming, okay, when people learn to swim without strokes it’s not efficient, but if they want to learn efficiency, they go to the swim schools. That’s what the swims supposed to be about, in my opinion.
Eric: So, if I’m an adult and I’m scared of the water and I don’t have to swim, you know, what are the first things that I should do to get acclimated to, you know, kind of gain confidence and get the ball rolling.
Melon: Well, you have to ask yourself what’s gonna make you feel safe? Do you need to be in a place where there are other people? You don’t want to be practicing in your backyard pool when there’s no one else around, you want to go to a place where there’s a lifeguard and say, I’m teaching myself to swim keep an eye on me, don’t want to drift into deep water. And then, you go and you do things that make you feel comfortable, things that you’re curious about for instance. So many people who are afraid in water are afraid of putting their faces in the water, don’t like it and they shouldn’t. It’s not this, you know, force your head underwater, it’s, oh I want to make sure I don’t get water in my nose so I’m gonna hold my nose and that’s, I think I’ll hold on to the side so I don’t tip over and I’m sure I won’t lose my balance, and it’s, I don’t want to get water in my eyes, I’m gonna close my eyes, I’m not sure how long I can hold my breath so I’m gonna take a good breath, I’m not gonna make myself stay there long; and by the way, I don’t really like putting my ears in the water either so I’m not gonna do that and so if they hold on to the wall and hold their nose and take a breath and dip their face in for a second come back out. I mean, a second half, a second and live through it and they say it wasn’t so bad. Hmm, good, one success maybe, I’ll do it for a second and a half next time. This way they are staying in the first circle because they’re doing just what’s comfortable, they’re not pushing themselves to do something, they don’t want to do… they’re not making themselves get water in their ears and they don’t want to, and they’re going in little steps and then you can’t miss when you take little steps
Eric: Is water in your ears a big thing.
Melon: Yeah, yeah, thank you everybody. It’s not as big as water in the nose or water in the eyes, but it’s a thing
Eric: Because you can’t hear…or it kind of changes your conditions right.
Melon: I think it’s because it tickles and people don’t know that your ears or like side pockets, it’s not gonna go into your brain, it’s not gonna go down to your throat people, really. A lot of people don’t know that so we let people know it’s safe to get water in your ears and they say we’ll want to get water stuck in my ears when I get an ear infection. No, you probably won’t get water stuck in the ears, it rolls right back out, you won’t get an ear infection. If you let your hair be above your ears and let your ears dry afterward, don’t put your head down on a pillow after you swam, that sort of thing. We let people know how it works and then they’re okay.
Eric: What’s that about the hair? I’ve never heard that, you know.
Melon: Women with long hair or men with long hair, if they let their hair be over their ears after they swim, their ears don’t dry and then you if you go to bed… Like, some of our classes are at night you go to bed and your ears are wet you wake up and you’ve had your head on your pillow on that, you’re gonna have swimmers ear in the morning. So, we make sure we tell people keep their hair behind their ears and let your ear dry out, even if you have to hold a hairdryer way out here and let the circulating air get into your ear. It prevents your infections.
Eric: I never knew that that’s, really cool, thank you. Well, often out here because he had I’ve had phones on but I often have here on my ears so that’s good to -know. So, you know, if somebody wanted to start doing this, I mean, you said by yourself, do you think that’s, you know, or other classes. So, where you out of…?
Melon: Sarasota Florida? And I always want to tell people how to do things on their own, because that’s what people want to do first… and they have to trust themselves, but if they wanted to take a class, Miracle Swimming classes are in about a dozen places in the country. We, have licensed instructors around the country, here are in Sarasota we have a fabulous pool, we… it’s 95 degrees this week here in Florida, that our pool and this is… and we have a class going on right now, and that’s a good temperature. Because, they they’re not cold, we have a two foot pool also, we have a regular pool that goes from three nine to six feet two, three nine, and our classes are taught there but we always take our people into the two-foot pool to teach them how to float on their front and back, because people who are afraid, they are not positive that they’re not going to hit the floor. You’re not going to sink to the bottom, but in a two foot pool… and they can put their hands on the floor and take them up. If they feel the water holding them up they are very, very happy and that nobody fails to learn there. So, we have classes year-round in Sarasota, we also have classes in Seattle, Boston, Chicago, West Palm Beach in Florida, a little north of New York, Alabama, where else? Look at my map here, Hawaii, Palm Springs, sometimes… hope I’m not forgetting anybody.
Eric: So, how long does the process normally take as far as your classes?
Melon: When someone comes in really afraid in water, it takes them usually… typically two weeks to overcome their fear and become free in deep water
Eric: And, is that every day, is that three times a week…?
Melon: It’s Monday through Friday, we do eight classes between Monday and Friday eight three-hour classes of one hour on land and two hours in the water, and we do the beginning class Monday through Friday, and then we have the weekend off. We do the next step class Monday through Friday the next week, the same format, and we go through everything that people need to learn really, and give them lots of practice time in that time, and we’ve covered everything that comes up, every question they have, every concern. There are eight people in the class usually, so there’s a really rich conversation, lots of experience comes up, there’s a lot of collaboration and ‘oh yeah, that happened to me, I forgot about that…’ and also the inspiration of watching other people do something you haven’t done yet and saying, you know, I think I can do that too; there she just did that, I think I can do it too, or he just… he jumped in, I want to do that. So, it’s neat doing in the class.
Eric: And, how long are they, the class?
Melon: With each class is 24 hours- eight three hour sessions for a 24 hour beginning class, and then the next step class is also 24 hours- eight three hour sessions.
Eric: So, the three hour sessions
Eric: I was scared for a second when you said they’re 24 hours, like been it’s a long time.
Melon: Well, I normally run two hours in a warm pool and that gives people enough time to settle down be in their body, practice being in their body because that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about back float, it’s not about putting your face in, it’s about being in control 100% of the time.
Eric: So, Bob asked about as corporate classes. So, obviously you do swim classes, do you do instructor classes as well?
Melon: Yes, and that’s really um, that’s the most important thing going on right now. Here at Miracle Swimming, for me, I stepped down from my role as CEO last year because I wasn’t able to get what I really need to get done and that is teaching instructors; we have an instructor training that we’ve been using for 14 years. And, right now, we’re revamping it and the next one will be in December here in Sarasota. But, we licensed instructors and then they go out… they have to have a place to teach before they come in to get trained. Once they go out having been trained, they can teach Miracle Swimming in their community.
Eric: So, you stepped down as CEO to move into a structure training?
Melon: I stepped out a CEO to move into doing the things that my heart is pulling me to do, which is writing the spirituality of learning five circles, the end of drowning, This the secret sauce of teaching adults to swim. Those are things that have to be published and have to be out there, and I want to do a TED talk as well.
Eric: I can see you doing a TED talk that would be really cool.
Melon: Thank you, thank you.
Eric: So, what’s the… and by the way, kudos to you for being strong enough to, you know, realized that the CEO role isn’t the best for you that’s a… it’s hard to give up control of, you know, a baby that you have been carrying for 35 years.
Melon: Thank you, thank you for knowing that. Yeah, that’s the right move,
Eric: Eventually you know, I will have to retire from, you know, running lifesaver and it’s gonna be tough. I’m out in doing it 20 years down, and I know now that it’s gonna be traumatic, you know, to… but I’m,
Melon: Yeah, but there comes a time when, you know, I am absolutely done with this. I cannot do this another minute, it’s hurting me to stay here.
Eric: Yeah, or that it’s gotten to a size or, you know, the company’s changed and it’s just, you’re not the right person anymore. Yeah, I mean that happens – yeah it happened to Steve Jobs happen, to Bill Gates happen to you, you know, **. So, that’s right; so, what now that you’re, you know, focusing on the books and instructor training, you know, what are your goals personally, and what are your goals going forward for a Miracle Swimming.
Melon: Personally, I want to feel as though I did my job, you know, I want to feel like these books are out, the TED talk is out there and people are listening to it and saying, that makes sense, that’s the way I want to teach people who are afraid and water, or saying that makes sense, the way I want to learn
Eric: you want the Ted Talk to be about the five circles, about teaching adults to swim or maybe a combination of both. We’re teaching adults to swim is kind of the example you use for the five circles.
Melon: Exactly, yeah it’s really about learning, you know, Miracle Swimming, is not so much about swimming; it’s about learning, right, and if this… if the five circles were used in all teaching, there would be so much more success in all teaching and not so much in where teaching is working beautifully already, but we’re teaching is not working you know where kids are not learning. We need to use the five circles and this feels like a contribution that I came to make, and I want to make it. So, I personally… I want to feel as though I’ve done everything I could and it’s those books I was just talking about and the TED talk, so that people can go to these resources and say, this makes so much sense what’s the recipe, oh I just have to do this but I don’t want to do that, oh, but she says that I have to and this is why. Yeah, that makes sense, okay I’m gonna make myself do it like this. So, I will feel like okay, now I can just go scuba diving and play and, you know, and go camping and go ride my bike and I can, and I’m done that’s what I really want to do. For Miracle Swimming, I want Miracle Swimming to be available in every town in the world; it really should be everywhere, because no one can fail to learn if they learn this way, and I want drowning to end there. We all know that every drowning is preventable, nearly every drowning, and it just doesn’t need to happen. And, when people read a drowning story and they go, ‘oh well, I say no’, it’s not ‘oh, well that could have been prevented.’ They were not talk or they weren’t taught at all, we started a drowning prevention coalition here in June in Sarasota, and I …my goals for that are for Sarasota to be hearing on a regular basis. Here’s what you need to do, both the people who live here and the visitors to Sarasota, because this … we want to have all the public and private organizations that have a voice in Sarasota to be sending out the message about water safety and drowning prevention year-round, not to inundate people with messages, but just to have a basic background message that says, make sure that before you go out into the water you feel comfortable. And, if you don’t wear a life jacket, make sure that when there is a pool party – yeah you have a water watcher, make sure that the water watcher doesn’t have a phone on, you know, they’re not looking at their phone, right, has a phone to call if they need, if there’s an emergency, but that’s it, um, you know, basic messages. And so, that’s another goal that I have for… Well, that’s not really a Miracle Swimming goal, it’s a personal goal, but Miracle Swimming, I think every swimming instructor who gets a certification to teach swimming should have a Miracle Swimming background knowledge, and everyone, everyone should know how to swim.
Eric: I think for unsolicited advice, I think you should be doing what I’m doing. I think you should have a podcast, I think that, you know, whether you’re just talking or interviewing people and, you know, I think the more attention you can be bringing yourself on social media, the more you can use that to achieve the things that you want to do. You know, whether it’s, you know, that people know about the book or, you know, promote yourself to a point of authority where you can do a TED talk. I think doing something like what we’re doing right now. But, you’re in my seat, believe it might really help you.
Melon: Thank you, I have 13 podcasts on my website on the miraclestreaming.org website, and they are really potent. Those are the things that I really want to say. It’s already been done; entertaining people’s questions like Bob’s. That would be something I think I’d want to do if I were sitting in your seat, because there are so many questions out there and they’re good questions they’ve already been answered in this book, and there answered in the books that I have yet to finish. But still, it’s nice to interact with people one on one, you know, in person like this.
Eric: And so, if someone wants to buy your book, where they …where can they get it?
Melon: They can get it at Miracleswimming.org in a paperback or as an e-book… a PDF, you can get it at Amazon also, amazon.com. for any fixed or connect it can order it.
Eric: And you said, there’s a DVD
Melon: There’s a DVD – that’s called The Miracle Swimmer this shows me teaching two introductory classes and a lot real students we, these are not actors, these are people who were in class and they’re saying there’s stories that of what made them afraid. And, I explained the five circles and we do the first couple classes, first couple lessons of a class so people can see how to get started. And, there’s also some special effects in there that depict the five circles and leaving your body which is different, it’s great you get the idea.
Eric: It’s awesome, and if somebody wants to, you know, work with Miracle Swimming either as somebody who, you know, is scared of water and wants to learn how to swim an adult or someone maybe more importantly, especially for my audience that wants to become an instructor. How do they do that?
Melon: Go to the miracleswimming.org or, if you’re afraid in water and you want to learn more about what we do or take one of our classes and find out where the other instructors are around the country, and if you’re an instructor, our instructor pages aren’t up yet, but they will be up soon. Because, as I said, we’ve been revamping and we didn’t really want to take entertain instructor requests yet, but honor that’s we will. We expect to have our instructor training back online, literally, our online training there’s an online training that takes about two months and then you come for the hands-on training. So, our online training will go live about it October 1st for the December training. And… but they can still write to info@MiracleSwimming.org to get information about that.
Eric: Beautiful, and is there anything else you want people to know before we wrap this up?
Melon: Yes, I want adults who can’t swim to not be ashamed that you can’t swim, and to know that we know that if you are afraid in water, there’s a good reason for it and you’re not crazy. Everyone, who learned to swim had to overcome some basic things like, how do I keep water out of my nose and all that sort of thing. So, it’s okay not to know how to swim, it’s okay to be afraid and there’s a really great way to overcome it that’s fast and fun and really supportive and it works every time. And, to instructors, I want to say, you’ve taught adults to swim before your classes are X number of people, when it starts and X minus how many when it finishes the people who leave class are not getting what they want. Usually, sometimes they’re going on vacation or something but often it’s because they’re giving up and they no one ever calls them to find out what happened. They need to, they need a way to learn. Either send people who are having trouble in your classes to miraclestorming.org or come and get trained so that all of your students, you can feel like you’re really helping all of them and you’re giving them exactly what they came to learn. Some of them came to learn what you’re teaching, and some of them came to learn things that are more basic. And the more basic information must be learned before those people can succeed and those people must know how to swim, and they’ve stepped out saying I want to learn how to swim, I trust you to teach me give me the right information. So, I want to just say to you the information is out there, and we want to help you learn it and help you feel great about your teaching.
Eric: That’s perfect, thank you so much. I really, really appreciate you talking to me and I think that you’re onto something huge. I don’t know a better way to put it you know, I think the ideology that you’re discussing in the five circles and, you know, the, you know, the learning process of dealing with fear. I think it’s all really important and I hope that uh I hope you manage to get it out to the world cuz I think it’ll help everybody.
Melon: Thank you so much Eric, I really appreciate this.
Eric: I’ve got to use it for sure, there’s no question. So, if it’s good for me, it’s good for everybody else too, brother,
Melon: Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.
Eric: All right, well have a good day and I hope when your next book comes out or you have some other cool thing going on. We can do this again.
Melon: Thank you, I would like that too.
Eric: Awesome, thanks Melon.
Melon: Thank you.