Semper Gumby (Stay flexible)
What is the net affect of little lessons that we learn in life? How do a few words become the directional marks upon a moral compass? I am standing upon my new paddleboard and I am about to leave the safety of the harbour. I have paddled past the last bridge and the fuel station and now power boats are able to kick in the their engines and create wakes that will test my own balance.
It seems that every faith system has it’s own code or pillars of belief. It is common to hear ”well these are the four primary things to remember” or “one must abide by these three crucial rules”.
At a young and impressionable age, the words honour, courage and commitment got tossed my way. For me, the initial meaning of honour seemed to bring forth images of knights and their round table. It was an understanding of integrity that had to be a deep and personal understanding. Courage was that scene you saw in all the movies, where the brave Marine would sacrifice their own lives for the rest of the platoon. Commitment, well I always think of a quote Anson Dorrance wrote about Mia Hamm. “The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is looking.”
I grew up with these ideas in my noggin. After a nearly fatal motorcycle accident, it appeared that I might never run or even walk again. I drew strength from these words.
Contrary to some folks assumptions, I rose up the ranks within professional yachting to become a skipper and tactician. Later in life, I entered my own profession of teaching and became a master educator. Along the way, the way my ethos tempered. With time, my beliefs gave way to less hostile situations and I wondered if I could return the my youth and just “abide”. Could you take the code of the marines and fuse it with a Zen perception?
When you think of it, honour is to believe in something larger than your own self. It is letting go of the ego voice and letting the body and spirit combine to show a hidden voice. Likewise, courage is to have the strength to let go of those things that hold you back and to reach for a point of acceptance. Finally there is the whole set of challenges of commitment. What do you do when your faith fails you and your feet soar into the air after yet another hug wake?
My newfound love of paddle boarding has been inspired by a lovely lady’s love who went over the horizon. She left me with a path to follow, “Keep paddling”. So I took her advice to heart. I began redefining my own relationship with my own body. I lost thirty-five pounds prior to even stepping onto a board. I began to honour not only my own body but also my own emotions. It was ok to feel these waves and even attempt to overcome them. Instead of doubt, I started to listen to that inner voice that gave me courage. “You can do it”, said my inner child. You have the courage! The pain in my back became less, I accepted the challenges of paddling into the wind. Most of all, I let go of my own fears and felt the strength of love. I could hear her voice, “keep paddling” and I saw my own body overcoming something I had thought I could never do.
Slowly, I have started to define my own pillars of paddling. I wrote them down and played around with their order. Most of all, I decided that if I was going to make some changes that it started with me. For ten years, I had held my self back both with pain, excess weight and an inner voice that was not fuelled by spirit but by doubt. The first challenge was to focus on the present. The first step, the first stroke and yes even the first splash into the water, inspired me to create the F.I.R.S.T. Paddle boarding and life pneumonic.
So stay with me and let see how this flies.
You are placing your board in the water, the wind is slowly blowing through the rigging at the dock. You can hear the cry of gulls and you feel the warmth of the sun on your face. You attach you foot cord and prior to that first step onto the board, you let go of the inner voices and feel the present. Feel your pulse as you grip the paddle and feel you feet attempt to find balance.
Yes, you on the water and with imbalance you will get wet. You are mostly salt water any way and the wet suit and or extra gear and flotation device will keep you afloat. I…let go of the I and realize ..it is only water. So what if you fall in. So what if you make a fool of your self in front of a restaurant deck full of dining patrons. So you didn’t adapt quickly enough and the tenth harbour ferries wake caught you napping. It is only water.
There is the shudder, the forward and backward lurch and the grin as you taunt the gods and a newfound balance kicks in. Now is the time to breath. Inward, for five seconds, hold the breath and then let go. This too will pass. With each wobble is a moment in between when you can find balance. Remember to breath.
Spend too much time looking at your feet and you will not be able to find balance. Spend too much time in your own head and you lose sight of the horizon that is guiding you onward. See outside of the board. Prior to the wakes catching you off guard, watch for their patterns and adjust your course to go across the wake at an angle. Repeating back to feeling the moment, relaxing and repeating a quiet mantra, |..it is only water..remember..breath and the final but most important advice..
Keep your paddle tip in contact with the water. Keep moving. The greatest risk of imbalance is when you are not moving. Stay stagnant and there is no change. Change is always occurring though. How to deal with change? Put your self first. Honouring that self does not mean to boast or brag. It shows a sense of integrity to start from within and find that source to move with. Tip to water.
On the water, I find a sense of peace that sometimes eludes me on shore. I find that state of mind where I can heal and let go of the ruffles of the day. Now I look at my new board and smile, it is my own personal device to get “my Zen on”. I can go back in time and fuel that fire within and yelp like an innocent child. I can laugh and smile when inside, there may be emotions that attempt to create salty tears. It is only water.
It is one of four primal states of matter. My inner compass keeps guiding me back onto the water. Yes, I have now soared into the air due to another massive wake. Yes, I am griping my paddle both with rage and a clear understanding of how much I paid for the bloody thing. What on earth was I thinking! Yet the fire is within and with that fire, I climb onto my board. I breath in and pause. I look to see if there are any more boats and with a wobble and a grunt, I stand up and immediately put my paddle into the water. You come F.I.R.S.T. if you have the strength to honour what you body, mind and spirit can achieve. Yes, she is right…I must keep paddling.
1. F for find balance
2. I for I am not afraid..it is only water
3. R for remember to breath
4. S for see outside of the board
5. T for tip in the water..the paddle tip..not you!