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Paddling- Taking the Lessons Off the Mat

Paddling- Taking the Lessons Off the Mat

I paddled this weekend with a group in south Georgia.  We canoed and kayaked about twenty miles over the course of two days.  We had lots of rain the day before we first set sail.  This made the river full and easy to float along.  Our paddle the first day was easy, if a little cold.  The next day we had a shorter trip planned.  We expected it to be easier than the day before, with time for exploring side routes and taking in the sites.

The wind started to blow and we could paddle as hard as possible and not really go anywhere.  We paddled straight into the wind, but the full river still did not carry us along like it had the day before.  In the center of the river, there were white-capped waves- flowing upstream.  It was a surprise and something of a struggle.

Finding the Quiet Place
As we passed each other, we complained and shared our concern.  We all had an “are we there yet?” mentality.  Plus we were tired.  Paddling into the wind takes quite a bit of effort.  As we went across the center of the river, I realized that we had the easiest time when we faced the wind and waves pointed into them.  They were to be listened to and I got low in the boat, kneeling.  The wind, the waves, the river- all required my complete focus.  And so I quieted my mind.  I stopped complaining and worrying and just started listening to the water and the wind. 

The first day’s paddle did not star the river.  But the second day certainly did.  The river and the wind together were having this conversation that was powerful.  There was nothing to do but to listen to it.  And I did.  At the end of the paddle, I felt like I had learned something from getting still and listening.  I was glad to take the boat out, for sure.  We all were.  But there was something focused and still about working with nature the second day.  When I got to know the Altamaha the second day, I got some new respect for the river, for the wind, for boats, for my fellow paddlers- and for myself.  And it all came from listening.

Meditation in Action
Meditation brings focus and awareness to what is, allowing us to be present with it.  When we show up and are present, our lives take on new dimensions.  We become three-dimensional characters in our own perceptions.  Once we become fleshed-out, so do the others in our lives.  The first day, the river was a one-dimensional character for me.  She was beautiful, but ultimately nondescript- just like every other river.  But the second day, she demanded my presence.  And then I got to know her in a much deeper way. I listened to her.  And she spoke.

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