Let's face it: perhaps more than at any other time in history, we have overly busy schedules, we're overworked, and we're stressed to the max.
The antidote? Slowing down and practicing mindfulness. Enjoying the scenes and sights around you, and taking time out of your days to unwind and refresh.
Imagine floating down a serene river, miles away from any traces of civilization. Your body feels alive, your nerve endings alert and muscles feeling a healthy stretch. You slice your paddle through the water and glide forward, then do it again.
You pause and see a majestic white egret soar through the sky. The air is calm, the time about sunset, but your mind is not on the clock, it's on taking in this delicious experience through all your senses. You feel at peace and carefree.
Although this scenario may feel too far out of reach, it doesn't have to be. I would recommend that all of my clients see inflatable kayaking as something more than exercise or sport.
Yes, kayaking does provide many health benefits, like improved cardiovascular fitness and increased muscle strength. But practicing mindfulness while kayaking does more than tend to your body, it tends to your soul, the root of where happiness begins.
There's no one right way to practice spirituality and mindfulness when kayaking. However, I can offer some tips on what seems to work, and bring kayakers to a healthy practice of mindfulness when out on the water.
A great first step is to practice the art of silence. There are times when paddling is great as a social activity, but there are also times when it's more important to let your conversation still.
You can still be with others as you practice silent mindfulness, and in fact may need to in the interest of safety, but keep a short distance away from each other and allow yourselves to bask in the silence and sounds of nature. In silence you allow your mind to rest, sometimes wander, and you can hear the rhythms of your body.
One rhythm of your body is the act of breathing. No, you don't have to start meditating or chanting (although you absolutely can) while you're out on the water. But take a moment right now and listen to your breaths.
That in itself has a calming influence upon you. You can apply that to mindfully paddling. Take deep abdominal breaths. This provides more oxygen to your brain, which promotes calmness. Taking deep breaths and paying attention to them reduces stress and helps you feel connected to your body.
Now, how to paddle. Kayaking coaches instruct beginners on this practice, though they do it to gain a competitive edge. What you want to do is pay attention to each of your strokes.
Yes, the more you kayak, the more automatic paddling becomes, and that is okay. But for mindfulness you want to focus on each stroke separately - the way your paddle is positioned, where it hits the water, pulling the stroke through, out, and changing to the other side.
Each separate stroke should flow into the other continuously, rhythmically. Focusing on each stroke produces flow, where other thoughts are forgotten. Some athletes call this state being "in the zone." Don't force it, but let your body and mind work together to produce this optimal condition.
You may think that a day out on the water will give you the time needed to figure out a big decision or organize things in your head. I would advise against this. When you give your mind a rest, it can actually do better decision-making later on, much like sleeping at night recharges your brain and gives you a better perspective on things the next day.
Don't let your mind be distracted by other thoughts while kayaking, if you can. Don't stress about it if this isn't achieved quickly, just gently guide your mind back to the present. Sometimes a few hours not focusing on a big decision can actually lead to, after your paddling, you coming up with your answer.
As an avid kayaker myself, I've tested many kinds of kayaks and other types of watercraft in the past. I eventually chose inflatables over other kinds of kayaks because of these reasons:
Mindfully kayaking can be a transformative experience, one that takes you years into a hobby and elevates it to something almost spiritual. It lets you experience nature, focus on yourself and the rhythms of your body, and clears your head.
It's like self-therapy that makes you feel truly alive and in tune. It doesn't always mean you paddle in still waters; mindfulness can be exhilarating too. Whatever it is for you, it helps you experience the world wholeheartedly and we here at Freedom Inflatables highly recommend it.