Kayaking on whitewater for me is like a moving meditation. When I spend a day on a river that challenges me, it has a cleansing effect. When I am negotiating a rapid that is near the edge of my abilities, it requires complete focus and attention. I am reading the river – the direction and speed of the water, the hydraulic dynamics and features, rocks, and logs. I am watching other paddlers – I may be following someone who is showing me “the line” and also watching for others who may be ahead of or behind me.
I am coaching my body to perform to the best of my ability – to apply the desired amount of strength, patience, balance, flexibility, and resilience. Through the actions with my body, I am attempting to guide the boat to achieve my goals – lifting, leaning, turning, slowing or picking up speed, bracing to keep my head above water.
Finally, I am often working through an intense blend of emotions and sensations – fear, confidence, attention, surprise, cold, sometimes pain, and hopefully, sheer joy. In order to run a rapid successfully requires integrating these things and most of all, it requires working WITH the power of the water – accepting the flow and movement and determining how to gracefully engage with the river. It’s an ongoing balance between maintaining control and letting go. Is there any better way to connect with the spiritual power of the world?