Monday, September 10, 2012

Paddling Upstream

Last week, while in Mendocino, 
I got to spend a couple of hours on the Big River. 

I love rivers, and love kayaking. 
It's something I don't get to do nearly enough of. 

As I started out, I was delighted with my purple kayak rental. 
I thought, "It's such a UU minister color, how perfect!"

I began paddling upstream - 
and both the tide and the wind were with me. 
I barely had to dip my oar in the water 
and I was sailing away. 
I was the only one on the river. 
The only sounds I heard 
were birds calling to each other 
and my paddle moving through the water. 
I laid back and looked up at the trees, 
the sun peeking through leaves and branches. 

I felt like I flowed with nature. 

After dreamily floating along for about 45 minutes, 
I realized it was going to take some work to get back. 

Reluctantly I turned the kayak around. 
And was suddenly met with a brisk breeze 
in my face and water coming at me, 
rather than going with me. 

My zen-like state vanished. 
All I could think about was getting back to the dock. 
I realized I didn’t have enough drinking water with me. 
(Okay, honestly I hadn't taken ANY with me!)
I wondered if my arms were strong enough 
to propel the kayak to my starting point. 

I did make it back. Without harm. 
I can paddle for an hour, 
and suffer very sore arms the next morning. 
But doing so much work to get back 
destroyed my internal flow. 
My mind raced with questions about my ability
 to do the physical work. Instead of feeling 
at one with the river, each stroke reminded me 
I was moving against it. 

And isn't that the way of life. 
Ease and comfort can turn into unease and pain. 
We may yearn for change in our lives, 
only to become overwhelmed and scared when it does arrive. 

Spiritual practice can help us 
sort through that stuff, 
make sense of our days, 
help us keep paddling upstream 
even when our arms - and hearts - 
may cry out for us to stop. 

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