Since 1983 we’ve taught adults who are afraid in water to overcome their fear and swim. This required something radically different from what was—and still is—being taught in traditional swimming lessons. To heal a fear, we had to consider the person — the spirit— and where they go when they’re afraid or when they panic. They go somewhere else, out of the present, into the past or the future. Learning cannot happen this way.

Healing fear has nothing to do with their arms and legs, the focus of traditional lessons. We needed a new paradigm.

What came was a diagram so elegantly simple that in 36 years of teaching afraid adults, it has never once failed one single student. It has literally made learning inevitable; teaching, infallible. The press has not noticed it, covered it, or understood it.

Our system is the quantification of mindfulness in simple diagrams that require no explanation.

Above, the diagram of the 5 Circles shows what we look like when we move from calm to panic. It is also a diagram of moving from presence of mind to absence of mind due to distraction. The lower box is the diagram of a spirit coming down fully into its body as we “arrive,” “settle down” or learn.
The goal in most of our moments is to be in the 1st Circle: in our bodies completely. The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Circles are self-detectable (once we’re trained) and can be prevented once a person knows the 5 Circles and how to remain in his/her body. This is what we teach. It is simple. People with a lifelong terror of deep water become free in 2-3 weeks.
There’s more information at for the meaning of each circle and the system. More information at for our swim school.

The 5 Circles is the very definition of mindfulness. May it enter the mindfulness community and contribute to its success.


  • M. Ellen Dash

    Author, Speaker, Founder of Miracle Swimming, M.S. Ed.

    Miracle Swimming

    Founder of Miracle Swimming, Dash first defined mindfulness for her adult swimming students in a visual way in 1983. The 5 Circles Spectrum of Mindfulness provides an infallible way to make learning inevitable and guaranteed for most people. Dash demonstrates the imperative use of mindfulness to be successful overcoming fear, and specifically, learning to swim as an afraid-in-water adult. Her system is outlined at,, and in her first posts at Dash is author of Conquer Your Fear of Water (2006), Conquer Your Fear of the Triathlon Swim, producer of The Miracle Swimmer DVD, and host of The Learn to Swim Show, 13 podcasts at She has spoken at national and international meetings to turn the ship around for adults who are afraid in water who have little chance of learning to swim in traditional swim classes. Nearly six thousand adults have graduated from her program since 1983.