Families lounge in the rivers; at the put in’s and take out’s, to escape humidities ceaseless smothering of skin. Mango and pineapple stain my fingers and cheeks with a rare welcomed stickiness. We shake off the winding, curving residue in our stomachs from the drive here as we tighten our helmets and drag our borrowed boats behind our guide and new friend. This is Costa Rican kayaking.
Costa Rica, for me, was the humbling reminders of life’s simplicities, the willingness to accept and let go of the stresses of existence.. the releasing of ego. A lesson who’s vast teachers I have come to regularly seek and to crave. My perspective of Costa Rica’s Pura Vida state of mind, was one that I found transpiring both on the ground as I walked the small, colorful neighborhoods as well as on the five days spent traversing the local whitewater.
Whitewater kayaking, as you may or may not know, is an extreme sport. It entails a mental and physical, fortitude and awareness that although may bear the lightness of a sort of meditation; is likewise just as capable of ensuing an adrenaline of nervousness, fear and great intensity. It is the latter that at times has the ability to get the best of you and was a feeling that crept up on me from time to time as I experienced the unfamiliarity of the tight turns and diversity of Costa Rican whitewater.
But with all anxieties, comes a precious lesson.
The juxtaposition of inwardness and trust in your paddling group is one of the things that draws me back into my boat again and again, it is the art of allowing myself to let go of my stresses and welcome the openness of kayaking’s many lessons.
Paddling the rivers in Costa Rica next to both my partner’s ceaseless support and our guide, a boater who’s gracefulness and ease fine-tuned the validity of this art for me, while simultaneously solidifying my desires to consciously carry this wisdom with me onto every river, new and familiar, from then on.
So many moments in my kayaking endeavors are comprised with a NEED to reach a certain position; from catching an eddy as quickly as possible, to ferrying with the most success and fighting my way into a surf wave. So often, my focus on the necessity of these moves leaves my lines and pathways stumbled with jerkiness and a lack of grace. Yes, I can make that eddy, yes I’ll make it to the opposite bank, but will forcing my desires to succeed to the forefront of my mind really equate to the maximum progress attainable in these moves? Not necessarily.
It is not always about fighting your way to success, but rather, fine tuning the calmness you use to reach your goals.
I believe it to be both the unity between minute paddling techniques and a certain mental awareness, both, of course, being an exercise in time, to achieve this skill and aesthetic. Paddling the waters in Costa Rica taught me that the welcoming of these subtle teachings is a key element in learning to let go of the anxieties of the extremities and relishing in that inward meditation that kayaking and so many other physical activities can bring us.
There are many moments from our trip that I hope to hold clearly in my mind for the entirety of my paddling career as well as in my reminders of why I do the things that I love to do.
From experiencing the distinct and interactive Flora, the curling of the leaves as I reach out to touch, the imprinting of its shadow when placed upon my skin; to playing soccer with the locals and bonding with folks solely through half spoken Spanish and smiles alone.
While paddling a slower section of water one day, the question arises of why we love to paddle:
It allows me to release energy, be it of silliness, adrenaline or purely of a “fuck it” motivation.
It allows me, as an often shy and small character, to do something big, to remind myself of my power.. to feel.
It completely and honestly clears my mind. I don’t think of anything else but kayaking while on the water.
Affirmations like these followed us to dinner time that evening, and it is these affirmations that inspire me to practice and to continue to seek the activities that allow me to thrive.
If I could impart one thing to my readers, my fellow paddlers and my friends who strive to seek more from this life, it would be to seek that self-consciousness that imparts on us the ability to perceive explicitly, delicately and intimately.
Don’t hesitate to learn from surprising or unlikely places and experiences. Embrace all that you take up, all the places you find yourself and all the folks that surround you.
Stay Humble. Dig deep. Pura Vida.