Posts Tagged ‘Buddhism’


Okay, I am not an expert on Zen, or anything Buddhist, or even Asian, really. Let’s get that straight. This is just something a girl said to me on one of our early canoe trips when I was explaining the best way for me to paddle, “Is that the Zen of paddling, Donna?” It has stuck with me for almost 16 years.

So here’s how I interpret the Zen of paddling a canoe. My decision at the very beginning of all of this canoeing with my soulmate was to paddle as excellently as possible, to make every stroke count. You are going to have to do it millions of times, might as well do it right from the beginning. So there’s a fair amount of concentration to develop form while you are learning, but that’s the same with so many things. Especially in sports; tennis and golf come to mind. Repetitive motion, with mastery of technique the difference between a champion and a novice.

My personal goal in paddling is to be as quiet as possible, to slice the water with each dip of the paddle with efficient, powerful stealth. What I always tell our volunteers at every quick pre-cleanup canoeing tutorial is to think of an Olympic diver slicing into the water without a splash, and emulate that. Don’t thrash the water as if you are beating egg whites to make into meringue. Don’t keep clobbering the top edges of the canoe, either.

I love to sneak up on wildlife, first of all. I also love not wasting energy. I especially don’t want to hurt myself, and miss out on future canoeing adventures. I really hate to see people deprive themselves of fun in the future by not getting the hang of smooth, efficient paddling. Canoeing is such a marvelous thing to do that I hate to see people in pain because of it.

Remember, it’s just not as easy as it looks. Few things are, when you do them really well. So be kind to yourself, allow yourself to learn. Canoeing is one of the few sports, though, that has the power to actually kill you, because you are deliberately placing yourself in harm’s way: rough weather, crazy people on jetskis, drunks in powerboats, alligators, killer whales…

When paddling, put yourself into a contemplative state, with the repetition of each stroke as soothing and yet revitalizing as a Buddhist chant. You also have to be sure to choose the right paddle, but that’s not our concern just now. Seek perfection in each stroke, in placement of the paddle. Feel the breath in your body, feel the sun on your skin, the wind in your face, the strength in your muscles. Be totally present, be in the moment.

Drink plenty of water and use sunblock, wear a good personal flotation device, wear sunglasses so you can see beneath the surface. Be proud of yourself when you return to the dock. Be blissful. Now just make sure you keep doing it. Like meditation, it’s called a practice for a reason. Let me know about your adventures, okay? Remember, you can learn more about canoeing on our website, www.wildlife-research-team.org.

Happy paddling!



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