Updated: Nov 10, 2021
K-A-Y-A-K. THE WORD IS A PALINDROME. It reads the same, forward or backward. That in itself makes it a balanced word in the English language. Over time, I’d come to understand that kayaks don’t tip people over; people tip over kayaks. As a paddler, paradoxically, my body English must be toward the direction of the threat, whereas my instinct is to recoil from it. If a wave is about to overtake me, I brace into it with my paddle. By moving in the direction I least trust, I maintain stability. Trust is ballast. By moving in the direction of doubt, I have hope. Through years of practice I gained stability in this fluid environment yet strove for stability in what often felt like an unstable world.
AN UNSTABLE WORLD. In light of our nation’s recent turmoil, I randomly opened INSIDE, sensing that whatever passage my eyes met would provide some guidance for my woes, or at least make my heart feel a bit lighter. The above vignette from chapter three entitled “On Gratitude and Stability” greeted me. I soaked this all in, much like a dog will soak up the last rays of sunshine on her back porch. I think, now more than ever, we all seek a quiet place where we can go deeper inside and find some semblance of balance in our worlds.
I perceive the kayak as a metaphor for maintaining balance in a sometimes-unbalanced world. Knowledge is ballast. Stability is a subjective term. A sea-worthy kayak, bobbing in ten-foot rollers will remain upright, even when sideways in beam seas. Add the human element to this equation, however, and things can quickly go awry. Stability in a dynamic environment—stability in an unstable world. Stability in a kayak is about keeping your center of mass over the kayak’s center of buoyancy. Keep your head, the eight-pound bowling ball, centered over the cockpit. Keep the paddle in the water. Keep moving. Look where you want to go. The law of positives is ballast. Grace is the song of the body, the blade, and the boat. Focus on this economy of motion and it will morph into poetry in motion.
Proprioceptors, thousands of specialized nerve endings advising your body where it’s at in space, come into play in a kayak. An awareness of the symbiotic relationship between body, blade, boat, and balance occurs. If you play with this relationship, focusing on the coordination of mind, breath, body, and boat, amazing things happen. A comfortable union between body, boat, and sea happens. Mindful paddling happens. Balance happens.
Fluid by nature, water takes the path of least resistance, gracefully moving around obstacles rather than directly opposing them. Water is always changing, ebbing and flowing, like our lives and our bodies. After completing my Inside Passage journey I understood these forces more than ever, and, over time, I have come to understand how working with these relationships can help manage the tumultuous waves and challenges in our everyday lives. Paddling helps me establish and maintain balance, stability, grace and focus in life when off the water.
With the holidays upon us, feeling gratitude in our everyday lives helps our sense of well-being, a sense that our lives are flowing in abundant directions. What will you do in the months to come to feel a deeper sense of peace and balance?