A new student approached the Zen master and asked how he should prepare himself for his training. “Think of me a bell,” the master explained. “Give me a soft tap, and you will get a tiny ping. Strike hard, and you’ll receive a loud, resounding peal.”

With any new sport/movement/activity, we tend to overexert ourselves because the movement and the timing of the movement seems so unnatural to us. Kayaking is no different.

When we start out kayaking, we are told, “When in doubt, paddle harder.” This allows new paddlers to stay upright, get through rapids, etc, with a better chance of staying upright. However, if one only learns to “paddle hard” through rapids, they will never create the relationship of “oneness” with the river.
To create the unity between the river and you, you must be able to use what the river is giving you. Instead of focusing so much on just getting through a rapid, focus on HOW you are getting through the rapid. Focus on where the water is accelerating, where the waves are crashing, where the river wants to push you. Once you start “feeling” the river, you can then determine how your strokes, boat placement, timing and acceleration need to be adjusted to be successful.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect”, and this is true. Our movement with the water may not feel natural at first, you may feel like your paddling hard and nothing is working out – your boat is spinning, you hit a rock and flip – this is when you need to take a “time-out”. Pull over in the river, take a few deep breathes, and say to yourself, “Relax, don’t fight what I am out here choosing to do . . . Just feel the water, and dance with it!”

– Heather Herbeck

A Bell|Heather Herbeck

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