When I paddle, I am rarely thinking about past failures. While paddling, I am rarely considering the checklist of tasks I have to accomplish, or that brief I still have to write. I don’t think about the hurtful thing someone said to me, or the time I spoke too harshly to someone else. I don’t run down the week’s schedule in my head.
All of these thoughts, which are the typical daily kindling for the mind’s fire, are set aside while I am paddling. As soon as the board hits the water and skids across the surface, I stand up, and the mind shuts off. The blade hits the water and my thoughts turn to what is present, right in front of me.
I think about the water, its surface texture, its color, and its visibility.
I think about the wind, its strength, and direction.
I think about current.
I think about tide.
I think about my stroke. Am I reaching out far enough? Am I sinking the entire blade in the water? Is my paddle entering the water perfectly straight? Am I pulling my blade through the water with the right muscles? Am I pulling the blade out of the water in the right spot?
I think about my body. Are my shoulders relaxed? Are my arms straight? Am I turning my torso and turning my hips as I reach out? Am I leaning forward as I stab the paddle? Are my feet relaxed and do my toes wiggle?
I think about breath. I inhale through my nose and feel my rib cage expand. I breathe out through my mouth and feel the air leaving my lungs.
I think about the world around me. I see the birds. I see the fish underneath my feet as I pass over them. I see marine mammals passing by or surfacing and taking a breath far off. I appreciate the horizon, the sun, and the distant clouds. I see beauty.
And before I know it, the paddle is over, and I am back to where I started. Sometimes an hour-long paddle feels like it took place in only a few minutes, as if I had traveled through time. While paddling, I feel peace. I feel meditative, and detached from worry.
This is why I love paddling. I find the present. I find flow.
Find your flow. Find a place where you can be present and at peace. I can promise you the world and its problems will be there when you’re done, and you will be more equipped to handle them.