Free Your Mind and the REST Will Follow…
There is something magically meditative about standup paddling. Whether catching an intense wave in some serious surf, or stroking through silky, flat water with crisp morning air at your face, your mind is able to turn off all the many “open apps” and experience a calming freedom. In a world of fast-paced everything, no matter how fast you paddle on a SUP, life seems to finally slow down and help you free your mind. That is, when you set your mind to it.
Training for a race, paddling to increase your endurance, catching fish, using your board as a gym are all fun, and fit ways to hone in on your SUP skills. Yet slowing down and practicing some moving meditation (or even seated meditation) could actually help you hone in on your skills even more, making you an even better and more efficient paddler.
Everything we do is fast. We drive fast, we eat fast, we text fast, we get our errands and chores done as fast as we can. We want the fastest internet, and the fastest smartphone apps, we want the fastest route to our destination, and the fastest results on the scale, and with all the fast-paced living happening, rest can sometimes be hard to come by. In this fast-focused society, over 60% of the population has sleep issues. And yet, our resting times are crucial in that this when your body repairs the most damage done by every fast-flying day.
Without it, no repair is done and the body begins to malfunction. As an athlete, this can derail your training, and decrease your results, not to mention put you at risk for injury. So to quote the great “En Vogue”, the idea should be to “free your mind, and the REST will follow”. You can’t recharge and repair until you stop what you are doing and plug-in. This article will show you 3 easy ways to begin to use your SUP as a way to free your mind from the stressors of society and the pressures of life so that you have one more tool in your bag of tricks to make you a more fit, and passionate paddler.
These three healthful ways of plugging into yourself and slowing down use 3 different mantras to help you free the mind from the “hamster wheel of thoughts.” A mantra is simply a word, phrase, or sound repeated to help your mind find one thing to focus on, instead of many. No matter which one of these three you give a go to, be prepared to free your mind so the REST will follow, the adequate mental REST (and even some physical rest) your body and soul needs.
“Moving Meditation Mantra”
Take a day of your race training, or long paddle sessions and plan to just paddle here, with no particular speed, except that of complete calm and enjoyment. Your mantra here will go along with your paddle and every time your blade catches the water. Think one word or sound each time you stroke and let that one word be your focus. When I paddled a long distance paddle to raise money for children I knew who were dying from an incurable disease, I decided my word would be “thank you.” Every catch of my blade had me saying “thank you” in my head and my heart that I had the opportunity to paddle for those beautiful little children. As the day got longer, this mantra helped me to avoid losing focus or lose my stroke rhythm.
“Pausing Your Paddle Mantra”
For this exercise, perhaps you are in the midst of a daily paddle, but you find a place to pause and stand still on your SUP. Take in your surroundings. Look all around you and see what there is to see. Smell the smells. Feel the breeze or the temperature of the air on your skin. Ignite all your senses and be in the moment. Every inhale is deep and wide so you can feel the cool of the breath come in. Every exhale is an audible “sigh” with an open mouth, releasing tension and pent up stress. Your mantra here is the sound you sigh. After 3-5 sighs and after really allowing calm and stillness to free your mind, you can then begin to paddle once again.
“Seated SUP Meditation Mantra”
Find a quiet, calm cove, lagoon, or open flat water where the only sound is the sound of you settling down and taking a seat or a fully reclined posture on your board. As you begin to focus on your breath, every inhale think the words, “I am”, and every exhale, “calm”, or perhaps other words, such as “relaxed”, “free”, “peaceful” “tranquil” “still” or “mindful”. Make your exhale longer than your inhale and really experience the exhaling mantra word that you use, feeling it in your whole body and mind like the juicy nectar of sensation that it becomes. If it’s warm water, dangle your feet in it and feel the water massage in between your toes. Stay here as long as you like, but at least for 5 full breaths and enjoy the rest.
As simple and as small as these tasks are as part of your daily paddle, you will find they do great things to help you calm down, improve your technique and skills, and refresh and free your body and mind. Making time for freedom and rest may not always be easy, but it will always be beneficial. As your resting ability improves, your sleep will improve, your paddling muscles will then improve and repair, your stress hormones will be regulated.
There’s no better way to free your mind apart from the hustle and bustle of fast-paced living than surrounded by the calming presence of water. And as watermen and water-women, our SUP is the perfect tool to get us to that perfect place for the perfect calm so that we can free our mind, and allow the REST we so desperately need, to follow.