How do you calm yourself down at the top of, or in the middle of a rapid?
This is a super common question that I get from my coaching and instruction clients.
I always answer with a few questions of my own: How do you practice getting out of your comfort zone both on and OFF the water? Are you doing hard moves in easy water for your mind, not just your paddling skill?
Last weekend I had a private instruction client who shared with me that she was experiencing a lot of resistance to kayaking. She was nervous about her roll and her mind wanted her to stay home and stay safe. We talked through it and she decided to face her fear and do the lesson with me. The story she was telling herself was that her roll was bad and didn’t work. Turns out that she has a really good roll in flat water, but struggles as soon as she gets into moving water. That’s not a problem with her roll, it’s a problem with her mindset and how her mind responds to being upside down in current.
Fact versus story and hard things
Having the opportunity to discern between her story and the facts was super helpful for her. Together we were able to make good progress with her mindset. She no longer sees herself as not having a roll, or that the problem is with her roll. There is plenty of evidence that she can in fact roll. Because she had the courage to face her resistance and fear, she gained confidence and a whole new realm of possibility.
What’s important to note is that the thing that made the difference for her was her willingness to face her resistance and fear, recognize it and do it anyway. In other words, her breakthrough came from her willingness to do something hard.
This example is an example on the river, but what I think is key to cultivating mental agility is to take on challenges off the water too. Where in your life are you staying in your comfort zone instead of facing your fear and doing something hard?
Freedom through discipline
Take on challenges that require discipline. There is freedom in discipline, just like the river that flows powerfully wouldn’t exist without banks. When you complete something hard, no one can take that away from you, and you know for sure that you can do something you didn’t think you could do, or that you were scared of. That’s when you gain confidence.
According to yoga philosophy, one of the restraints that we must practice in order to gain mastery over the mind is non-attachment. This practice is really hard. You can become attached to people, pets, material things, food, jobs, stories, beliefs and the list goes on forever.
Whatever you’re attached to has power over you. True freedom is doing whatever the moment requires of you. Mental agility is being agile in your mind instead of attached to your fear, comfort or the stories that you’re telling yourself about what’s happening.
A powerful non-attachment practice
One of the most effective ways to challenge your mental agility is around food. As humans we have an enormous attachment to food. For one, it’s what keeps us alive and gives us energy. But we also use food to pacify challenging emotions. Our food choices are often based in seeking comfort and ease. It’s hard to choose out of the food that makes you feel good emotionally, even when that food has negative consequences for your digestion and your health.
When you take on a disciplined practice like my guided fall cleanse, you practice non-attachment, cultivate mental agility and do something hard. You flex your courage and confidence muscles and you show yourself what’s possible beyond attachment, fear and resistance.
Now that’s powerful! If you want to master your whitewater mindset, do something hard and practice non-attachment. Even a short 5-day practice like my cleanse can make a huge difference.
Choose out of your comfort zone to get the results you want with confidence and courage.
And, by the way, when I write this I’m also writing for myself because I need this reminder as much as anyone else. That’s why I also do the cleanse with the group. Y’all help me stay accountable for doing hard things too.
Register for my Guided Fall Cleanse. Last day to register is Monday. You got this!