Meditating in Sydney’s pools with Jessica Meddows
Buddha has been quoted as saying “Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance”.
Several years ago, I went through a stage where I thought that I needed to meditate. People raved about it to me and suggested it was the single most beneficial thing for your mental well-being.
I even went to a class, but found it just didn’t work for me.
“You’re not grokking it,” a friend said to me (grokking, for the uninitiated, means understanding on a deep level).
My life continued without structured meditation: I woke before the sunrise every day, swam at the beach, showered and dressed for work, then walked into the office, all before 8:00am.
At one point in my job, I had 4 or 5 months where I was overloaded with work and saw the night cleaners more regularly than my friends and family.
I had to give up my swimming and the more unhappy I became, the more I realised swimming wasn’t just exercise for me; it was my form of meditation.
Diving into cold saltwater with the sun rising was where I could clear my mind of its thoughts and feel a certain peace with my surroundings.
Swimming in the pool in my apartment block in Canada is anything but Zen (people seem to think it’s acceptable pool etiquette to swim across the breadth of the pool, rather than down the lanes here), so it was nice to be back in Australia for a visit in the hot weather.
Here are some of my favourite places for a cool dip.
Located: the corner of Frederick and Elizabeth Streets, Ashfield NSW
Entry to AAC is cheap, and the facilities are clean and spacious. Casual adult visits are $6.20, kids between 4 and 12 are $5, and littlies are free. There are three outdoor pools (one Olympic sized) and one indoor, 25-metre pool. All pools are heated.
There are also shallow play pools inside and out for the littlies.
The AAC has plenty of shade covering if you are sun conscious, and also lots of grass space if you like sunbaking.
The car park is huge and I’ve never had trouble finding a space.
If you want a shower on site, 50 cents will get you five minutes. But you will need to leave your shame at the entrance, as the showers don’t have any doors.
Aside from the pool, the cafe at AAC serves the most delicious feta and spinach gozleme.
Location: Bronte Road, Bronte NSW
The 30-metre ocean pool at the south end of Bronte is one of the better ways to greet the sunrise. It gets filled by the waves crashing over the pool’s edge at high tide and is regularly cleaned and treated by Waverley Council.
Recently the tide washed a small shark into the pool and I was sorely disappointed to miss out on it.
If you’re an early riser, you can use the car park before they start charging for entry and you’ll be right in front of the pool. Come after 6am or so, and it’s a fight to get a car spot in the car park. Street parking is also available at your usual Eastern Suburbs cost, but if you’re willing to walk a bit, you can always find some up the hill towards Tamarama. Otherwise, the beach is easily accessible by bus from Bondi Junction Station or Sydney City.
Location: 4 College Street, Sydney (right near St Mary’s Cathedral) NSW
If you’re serious about your training, the facilities at C+P are respectable. Even if you just want to relax in the water, this centre caters to everyone, offering a leisure pool and a disabled access pool. There are 12 lanes, each divided into a different ability level and lane availability clearly marked on C+P’s website.
This abundance of lanes and organisation means you never have to worry about either holding up the athletic people, or getting stuck behind someone who intends on walking up and down the lane for half an hour.
The showers are clean, bright and private, and the water is hot and plentiful. A small locker is well-sized and only costs $2 for several hours.
Entry itself is reasonably priced at $6.80 for adults and $5 for a concession. An adult 20 visit swim pass works out to $108.20 or $5.41 per visit.
If you want to use the gym it costs $18.60 per visit, with pool entry included.
There’s a nice outdoor area and a fairly funky looking café, but in the middle of Sydney, there are better places to eat and sun yourself (like the neighbouring Botanic Gardens or Hyde Park).
Location: the corner of Church and Drummond Streets, South Windsor NSW
When I’m visiting my family, I spend as much time at Hawkesbury Oasis as I did at the beach when I lived in Australia.
Hawkesbury Oasis has an Olympic sized outdoor pool (not heated), a 25-metre indoor heated pool and an indoor heated leisure pool.
The indoor 25 metre pool has numerous lanes divided into slow and fast lanes, and the attendants actually police this, which I’ve been grateful for at times.
The pool temperature is on the warmer side, I suspect due to the children and seniors’ classes.
There are two spas, a sauna and a steam room, a well-equipped gym, and exercise rooms for scheduled classes.
The shower and change rooms aren’t fancy, but they’re clean and free. They have lockers, but I never use them at this place – I bring in my bag with changing gear and leave my valuables at home.
Pool entry is cheap at $5, but unlike Cook and Phillip, pool entry is not included in an $18 gym pass, and a gym and swim /sauna/spa/steam entry costs $26 per visit.
On my last enquiry, there was no 10 pass or monthly pass option.
Because I live in Canada, there’s no point in paying for yearly membership, but going for a swim and gym visit every day when visiting the parents can cost me over $700 for a month, so I’d love it if they introduced 10 visit or monthly passes.
Location: Beach Street, Coogee
Occasionally I’d mx up my weekend beach routine of Bronte/Clovelly/Gordon’s Bay and I’d walk down to Coogee and visit the women’s baths.
For a mere 20 cents, you get one of the most beautiful and private views of the ocean from the eastern suburbs, and a quieter swimming experience than you do at Bronte.
At 20-metres long, the pool isn’t too bad for laps but can feel short if you are used to Olympic sized pools or even 25-metre pools. The change rooms are old and the showers don’t have hot water in them, but with the fish and crabs in the pool, and the occasional dolphin swimming past, it doesn’t get much better.
Pools on my To Do list: St Kilda Sea Baths, Dawn Fraser Baths, Andrew Boy Charlton Pool and Freshwater Beach Baths.
What are your favourite pools in Sydney? Are there any others I should add to my To Do list?