Monday, September 6, 2010

The Zen of Kayaking

I spent half a day kayaking yesterday, a beautiful, sunny clear day, the river quiet. I paddled with 3 other people, not a solitary journey, and yet I felt the joy of a peaceful time with nature. I'm sure I'm not the first person to take note of kayaking as a metaphor for life. Many inspirational bits have been written about going with the flow, not paddling upstream, not rocking the boat, captain of your own ship. The list is endless. There is much about these metaphors that I resonated with, that made me sit up and take notice of the messages.

I am not an expert kayaker by any means. I have been several times but I still struggle with doing it "right". Keeping my boat going straight down the river is sometimes a challenge and a preoccupation for me. Left. Right. Left. Right. Stop going to the left!! Paddle, paddle, turn around, start over. What I learned yesterday was that I was making it too hard. I was struggling too much when I didn't need to. The current didn't require me to make deep plunging swoops with my paddle, working and working, exhausting myself in the effort. It only required that I literally go with the flow -- let my boat float and with ease and gentleness bring it back to center as needed. Wow, there's a message. I work so hard, in everything, only to end up cranky, sore and tired, and not even where I thought I was going.

Then there is the part where you head the boat down the river, centering yourself. This is the most efficient way to paddle the river, pointing the nose of the boat ahead, keeping centered. Staying centered? Focused on my goal? Where did that come from?

The other wonderful part about kayaking, is how much wild life you can see from the river. Hiking is awesome but being on the trail, I do not experience quite the wonder of birds flying right across my path, egrets and herons standing on the shore, turtles sunning themselves on the rocks, beavers swimming by, then punctuating their visit with a slap of the tail. We were all there on the river, enjoying what the day had to offer, in the quiet stillness.

So what is my 'take-away'? To stay centered on my goals, and to stop trying so hard to make life work. I don't have to figure it out, make it work or become cranky to move myself forward. I need only allow myself to work with what the river offers, gently but firmly, to not only move forward, but be in the moment of the beauty happening all around me.