First of all, I am totally flattered and also feel empowered by Anna asking me to write for her blog. But that’s not where the empowerment started. It was that moment we were sitting in a circle of 20 women sharing our experiences as paddlers, when I decided to just say what I most strongly felt at that moment and what the strongest voice in my head was saying. And all of a sudden women looked up and I could near physically feel, how they were all listening to me. I felt very privileged, that all those truly uniquely amazing woman were listening intently to what I had to say and nodding and finding things in what I said, that was helping them find another piece to the puzzle. That was truly empowering for me. I was so buoyed that I shouted out, “You’re on!” when Anna asked us all to feel free and write something for her blog. I hardly recognized myself! “Who are you, you strange bold and confident woman?
What I had shared with the group is my thought that the river is totally impersonal. It doesn’t do things to me because it doesn’t like me — how I react to the river determines the outcome of my experience.
This is something that I really like about the river. It is not playing any games. It is not having an agenda beyond the obvious. It can’t be fooled by bluster and intimidation. It only recognizes what is real and what really matters in the situation.
For me paddling and the river are big metaphors. They both are teaching me an enormous lot about myself and about life. They teach me on one hand, who I am at that moment and what my life is like at that moment, but also teach me progress and show me how it could be different. No person can step into the same river twice, for she is never the same person and it is never the same river. Every experience changes me, but I feel that experiences on the river change me a lot more, than most other experiences. And that is because I know that the river is impartial and accurate in its judgment.
Here’s an example of what I mean: One of my big challenges in life is to stay relaxed with a good energy level and not to take things personally. The river helps me with that in two ways. It gives me instant feedback on how relaxed I generally am at the time and what my energy level is. The river does this in a truly honest and unbiased way. The more relaxed I am, the better I can meet the challenges of the river to make it a good experience. The more tense I am the more goes wrong with my boating and the less I am able to deal with the challenges.
The most striking example was to completely freeze in the face of running a stretch of the Kettle in MN. I had had a fun run of it the day before, but the next day I was tired from the exertion of the day before and from worrying about my instructor being very critical about my boating skills. When I say I completely froze I mean I had to remind myself to keep breathing, I certainly didn’t want to run the rapids and I didn’t even feel up to paddling the flat stretches. Learning from that I try and make sure to stay well rested and relaxed at all times to be able to meet the challenges and absorb the “bumps”.
I have a very clear experience now, that the world and what it presents me with looks very different depending on my attitude when I am looking back at it. The nastigram a colleague sent me could just run off my back like water off a duck’s back, or that unreasonable request could be just as easily dealt with in a humorous way. Just like I can better manage my fear of running challenging water, when I am at a high level of relaxation, which means a low level of anxiety and I am well-rested, knowing that I have the energy to face everything I meet on the way. Hey and when I’m really relaxed, I don’t feel scared at all and I don’t even think about not being scared, I may even go out looking for more challenge in life and in water.
I mentioned how Paddling is a big metaphor for me and here are a few examples. Recently I had to give a presentation at work and I was really nervous about it because I felt that part of the audience was going to be very critical about my presentation. I kept telling myself, that this is really nothing to worry about, because after all it is not like I could drown during a presentation! It helped me a lot to see much clearer — I had a brain-wave on how to deal with my main critic, which worked like a treat!
Here are a few more mantras I repeat to myself in various situations, which I learned from being a paddler:
When in rough water, keep paddling!
- When someone/something seems to be about to knock you off balance, brace!
- It’s ok to swim, just get back into the boat and keep going.
- And most important: Being relaxed and well-rested are the alpha and omega of having good experiences. I can choose to stay relaxed and to make sure I am well rested!
Now I don’t know if they sound cheesy to you, but this really helps me in life and in water!
Anna said in the circle I started this post out with, that paddling is her spiritual practice and that has been reverberating with me ever since. I would definitely consider myself a practicing paddler! (Maybe sometimes even a proselytizing paddler 🙂
Paddling is not always easy for me, but it makes me happy! It helps me forget that work week that was pretty tough. It makes that heart ache fade over the cute guy that doesn’t like me back. And, if gives me confidence in sticky situations, because my subconscious mind remembers how I handle those challenging situations on the river. I arrive at the take-out with as Amy said: “something that [I] found in myself that wasn’t there before, but now that [I] found it will always be there.”
Rosmarie “Rosie” Dauth http://leanupstream.blogspot.com
The title is slightly inspired by Joel McCune’s motto/philosophy of Excellence Through Paddlesport www.joelmccune.com