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The Mindfulness of Water

Courtesy of Minnesota Whitewater Rafting

Water. A precious resource and the foundation of our biological survival. It is not just our bodies that need it, but our minds that crave it. When we connect with water, we engage in a deeper connection to ourselves.

The hustle of the 21st century leaves many with overwhelming feelings of too little time and too much to do. The distraction of technology and our “on-the-go” mindset overpower our daily lives. Our bodies do their part in reminding us to hydrate and take in water, but how do we engage with our mind when it tells us we need to reconnect with the flow of nature? Hiking, biking, gardening and grounding seem to be top of mind but water is often overlooked.

Here in Minnesota, we place a high value on our 10,000 lakes and connecting rivers. Exploration is accessible all around us. Throughout the summer, many northland visitors suit up for the challenge of whitewater rafting on the St. Louis River, canoeing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or sailing on Lake Superior. Using human-powered watercraft (aka kayaks, canoes and rafts) to explore our environment provides mental and physical benefits that are hard to match anywhere else.

The valuable lessons span for miles along the river, flowing like the perfect metaphor for our emotions: still, reflective pools; jubilant ripples lapping the shores; the excited burst of the rapids, all capable of turning dark or churning wildly when running with a storm. Resist the current and it will make the challenges we face even harder or embrace it and adapt to overcome the obstacles that come before us.

Being on the water connects us to the natural rhythms of the water body. With whitewater, we need to be connected to the moment or nature brings me back in its own way. This can be in the form of a soft touch or a beautiful scene or even a shocking splash of water.

We find solace as we take in the sounds of water, be it the high-powered rush of rapids, the trickle of a stream or the dotting of rain against a pond. Through water we are reminded to listen to the complex layers of the world around us. There are pockets of solitude awaiting your discovery along our waterways.

As paddlers, we need to find balance in the way we move, the amount of power we use in our stroke, how we lean and our body position. The mind needs to be at near-even processing. For new paddlers, this balance takes a lot of focus and does not lend itself to anything but complete mindfulness in the moment.

The mindful presence of paddling is a break for us in many ways. We focus on what is happening in the moment, and after braving the rapids, we naturally debrief in the calm waters that follow. The water will help you find a balance that is hard to find on dry land.

Blu Bong is an American Canoe Association-certified instructor and guide with Minnesota Whitewater Rafting. For more information, visit 

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