Lately, I’ve been trying to practice mindfulness. It is indeed a practice, therefore, something you have to do over and over again to get better. While honestly, I’m not that great at it (yet!), I am working on being more attentive of experiences and feelings in the present moment.
To me, mindfulness is recognizing the tension in my neck and shoulders when I need a break… pausing to listen to the birdsong outside my window… enjoying the purr of my warm cat curled in my lap. It’s noticing the emerging buds on the trees in my yard… understanding when my body is tired and needs a break… closing my eyes as I take a sip of a steaming chai tea and tasting its rich flavor in my mouth.
Mindfulness is stopping what I’m doing when somebody wants to talk and really looking at and listening to them… appreciating the muscles in my legs as they pound against the treadmill during an evening workout… and every once in a while, it’s melting into my mat and feeling my diaphragm rise and fall with every slow breath during hot yoga.
No doubt your life is busy. If you’re like me, you’re usually trying to accomplish one more thing and moving quickly through your days. The problem with being a high achiever and rushing from one thing to the next is that days pass by without notice. Then weeks, months and years are gone before we know it. When we move through our days too quickly, we fail to notice the little things in our life that bring us joy and happiness. We fail to experience life.
I’ve had to remind myself why I got two orange kayaks in the first place. The reason was to slow down my pace, to spend more time in nature and to find more joy in my life. A farm girl from southern Wisconsin, I find a strong sense of peace and feeling of home when I’m outdoors. Kayaking has become a way for me to get back to nature, and a wonderful opportunity to practice mindfulness.
While kayaking, I can focus on the experience at hand, giving attention to my five senses to get the most from the moment.
I see the mix of clouds as they paint the sky with wisps of blue and white, mingled with golds and gray, depending on the weather and time of day. I see the herons as they stand silently camouflaged in the reeds along the shore, ducks as they paddle and bob across the waves.
I hear the water lapping against the kayak, the far-off voices and distant traffic, the birds chirping in conversation with one another.
I smell the water, sometimes still and stagnant, other times flowing freshly after a recent rain. I smell the air as it carries the scent of trees and flowers or someone cooking burgers nearby in their backyard.
I touch the paddles as they push through the water. I feel my back and chest muscles working with each stroke. I feel the cold water as I dip my hands or feet into the lake. I feel the sun kissing my skin.
I taste my lemon tea as it hydrates my body and the crunchy Granny Smith apple that tingles my taste buds and helps me maintain my energy as I work across the water.
Kayaking brings calmness to my life. It helps me to be more mindful of my surroundings. It gives me quiet time to think and talk and dream. And with these more mindful moments comes an appreciation for life, for being alive.
Kayaking is an opportune time to notice your body and mind, to be mindful of the beauty and greatness of nature and the small blessings that make up your day, creating the most memorable, happy moments.