Yesterday I was the bravest girl ever. Seriously. And that’s what I kept telling myself for the first 45 minutes of my very first stand-up paddle boarding lesson. It couldn’t have been a more perfect day for a first attempt: the weather was sunny, but not too warm; the water was practically as smooth as glass; there were no daredevil-piloted speedboats zipping around making big, disruptive wakes. But I was still really scared about the whole thing. First off, those paddle boards are BIG and HEAVY and I have spaghetti arms. Second off, when you see those pictures or videos of people leisurely paddling around without a care in the world what you’re not seeing is that they’re using every single muscle in their bodies. Okay, I might be exaggerating — a little — but it’s a WHOLE BODY workout. I work out, but I know full well I’m only using maybe 1/8th of my muscles and feel pretty uncertain about the competency of the rest of them. Finally, I know how to swim so I’m not sure why the idea of falling off the board into calm, not very deep water freaked me out since drowning wasn’t a risk, but it did. Thank goodness the first things the instructor talked about were: 1) how to fall; 2) it’s a sure thing at some point you’re gonna fall; and 3) when you fall and attempt to get back on the board, there is no graceful way to do it and everyone looks like a beached whale.
While we walked on the beach with our instructor, I wondered again why I was venturing so far out of my comfort zone and whether it would really bum my husband out if I just sat on the beach and worked on my tan while he did the lesson. Then I remembered my big realization — that I like to forget — that living big and sparkling usually starts with being uncomfortable. I really LIKE comfortable. I’ve also recognized, though, that I can only hibernate on the couch watching Bravo for about 36 hours and then I gotta get up and be brave again. Paddle boarding is something I’d always thought I’d enjoy. I wanted to be one of those calm, peaceful women competently paddling. Achieving that vision, however, would require some discomfort and work. So, I didn’t sit on the beach. I wo-manned up, grabbed my board and hauled it into the water.
I’ll spare you the details of my learning how to paddle, then kneeling on the board and paddling, then being super scared about it, but finally standing up and paddling. I had to go through it, it wasn’t pretty, but I did it. Every time I was scared, I repeated my mantra to myself about being the bravest girl EVER. Believe it or not, it helped! I even learned how to turn myself around by paddling backwards. Booyah!
Once I was standing up and paddling around looking kind of /sort of like that calm, peaceful woman I visualized, I realized how mindful this experience was. When you’re learning something new, you are fully present in the moment. Especially if you’re terrified of getting hurt/looking like a moron (equally terrifying in my world). I paid a lot of attention to our instructor and was continuously checking what I was doing against how he was telling me to do it. When I was standing up and paddling it wasn’t the end of the mindfulness, either. Being aware of my surroundings, being aware of the wind direction, paying attention to whether I needed to paddle more on the left side or right side, keeping my vision on the horizon so that I could maintain my balance … all of these required me to be focused and in the moment. All those niggling thoughts that had been cluttering my mind or annoyances I couldn’t let go of disappeared for the three hours I was on the water. I couldn’t spare any of my attention for inconsequentials. Not surprisingly, on the way home I realized that not thinking about those things had no negative impact. My worries and annoyances didn’t get any better or any worse for my not letting them junk up my mind. Lesson noted and learned.