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  • Writer's pictureHeidi Nehring

Paddleboarding: Finding One on a Spiritual Journey into Existence

Standup paddleboarding (yes, that is one of the spellings) is a journey for me parallel with yoga. What is yoga? Union. What is paddleboarding? Union. Both began merging as one as they both entered my life closely together at the same time roughly, strengthening my connection with all that is God breathed. Of course, it is not one of those things you realize at the time. I didn’t know what I was looking for. I didn’t know what the search was about. Except, I just wanted to feel freer within. From strains. From constraints. From striving. Looking back, I see it. The path. The journey. The merging of the movements with the breath with the flow with the strength with the core with the mind with the heart with the Divine. The samadhi as they call it where all is one. My yoga practices with my boarding practices with my writing with my life…essentially, our life. It blends. It moves. It all breathes as one if we let it.

I can feel it now. Year one. The striving for wanting to be successful. To prove myself to other people so I could say look at me. And I hated it. More so from the fact that I was trying to find validation outside of myself, which essentially isn’t bad, but the question always arose, Am I being true to me? as I was relying on what others told me. Me is spiritual. Me is a believer in something way bigger than all of us, the Divine Breath in and without everything. Purpose: why we are here. Me is sensitive and wanting to be pure, open, and honest. I would…and still get stuck in that, Am I doing this right? feel. Me as a people pleaser. Me trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. Me trying to be me, paddling with such a reach I would literally pull back muscles. Had to get down on my hands and knees to make it through gusts of wind higher than 8 mph. Walking off the board shaky and fatigued from the rough waters. Frustrated. I had to get better, such hardness on myself, such frustration. I wanted to be better. To feel that freedom. Why can’t I do this? At the time, I kept looking at others, some family members and friends could do it in their own realms, Why can’t I? I looked to them at that point more as inspiration than aspiration, which wasn’t the case before. Taking a step back, going to the basics to find the answer to the question, How can I get closer to me?

At the time, I saw yoga as strength training, and I felt more relaxed after it. However, I was only doing it once a week. Then it started as once a week and 15 minutes a day, hiding it from others because I didn’t want them to think I was weird or too “out there”. I will spare those details, but all I knew was I wasn’t ready for the personal judgements or criticisms. I was still finding how to stand in my truth. I just wanted to find what worked for me. Me as Heidi. Me as spiritual. Me as a seeker and a thinker. Me wanting more expansion. A walkway was provided for me and I chose to use it. What’s vinyasa, ashtanga, restorative, yin, heated, nonheated, sangha, meditation? I was told previously before not to dabble in such things from certain people, which I submissively listened to, until I couldn’t. I was curious what these practices could bring to my life in mind and body, not realizing it’s actually the spiritual that all of these nourish first, to build strength, stability, forgiveness, choice, freedom to open to you and what is happening now, asking, What is best for me? What do I need? What is making me more me for others? Listening to my inner callings, which I feel are all God breathed. God inspired. I felt it more when I started letting go in movements, in breath, in muscles, less on striving more on thriving. Believing it will come. Trusting the process. All of it. Given space, time, attention, slowing it down, taking pause, continually asking, What is it I want and need? Then, following it. As year two progressed, lifting the board felt a little easier. Paddling with the wind and the waves over 12mph was more doable. The breath a little staggered yet, but the desire to keep moving, merging, and progressing was there. I was able to look up and out at what was before me, able to take the beauty in. The trust a little wobbly yet that I could maneuver speed boater’s waves, or gain the momentum I needed to get out of the way, instead of fear making me cease, like a sitting duck, stuck in the middle of their way, but I could feel the little steps taking a bigger hold.

Sometimes as life progresses, we don’t realize the strength we have developed, the powerful mind we have, the spiritual fulfillment that has expanded the wings to a new capacity, until we do. Year three. All is more as one. Cue sitting on the paddleboard like I would my meditation cushion in the middle of a lake. I looked back at what was just accomplished with surprising ease, that I have paddled through channels to get to this little reservoir in 15 mph winds and little feathered waves, paddle lifting into the air out of the water, then back into the water creating a rhythm with the breath, Thich Nhat Hahn style, as I synchronize breath with the movement, saying, Breathing in I am breathing in, breathing out I am breathing out, looking up, out, forward, until I reached my sit spot among the flowered lily pads in a cross-legged position with the yellow bellied sunfish. A grateful heart beating with a smile for all I have been given. Joyful for a moment, but always blessed. Eyes closed. Hands on knees. Feeling the breeze on my cheeks, the water lapping against my board, hearing the wind make conversation on the tips of the pine trees in a wispy dance, and I settle. A big natural sigh out into the openness of nature, within myself, with God weaving in and out. Together we merge. Together we thrive.

Life is such. No? Anything we have interest in. Any struggle we may have. Growth happens like years of one of your favorite trees who has survived lightning storms, tornado winds, eventually growing limbs for morning dew to hang on as an ornament, or a diamond ring. So pretty. So beautiful. So strong after all the years of tending to self, becoming more stable as the years progress, always learning. Always room for new growth. May we all lean into all that we are. All that we have. Trusting the process as we go, paddling on, becoming one together.

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