Look where you want to go! - Mind Body Paddle

Look where you want to go!

Look where you want to go!

It’s winter in Wisconsin, and I’ve been playing a bit with my new toys from Santa: a secondhand pair of cross-country skate skis. I’ve been a trail runner my whole life, and paddling long enough that my boat feels like another limb, but skis are an unfamiliar tool. As I flail and careen up and down the trails, I sometimes get frustrated with my inefficiency and lack of control. Exhausted and exasperated, I once admitted to Daniel—him all calm, balance and smiles—that I’m just not used to doing things I’m not good at. Then I smiled, realizing that it has been awhile since I’ve truly tried to learn something new. Sure, I push myself regularly in kayaking and academics, but this means building upon some facet of the field that I’ve already “mastered.” Starting something from scratch can be hard; it can be a big deal! Learning to skate ski has caused me to slow down and be gentle with myself. It has prompted me to reminisce on my very first days in a kayak, on how the basics that are now engrained into my being once felt so foreign.

A good friend shared a little pep talk with me about how the best way to ski up a hill is to look ahead, not at your feet. “That’s just like kayaking!” I exclaimed. “You have to look where you want to go!” Even though I learned this in a paddling context nearly six years ago, sometimes I still hit rocks or get snagged in nasty holes when I let them steal my line of sight. When this happens, I have to check myself and reset my sights on where I want to end up. The eddy. The tongue. The boof. My body will never get there if I don’t have the courage to look first.

I’m grateful to my beat-up old skis (and my patient boyfriend) for giving me the opportunity to reconnect with the essence of being a beginner. Even in kayaking, I’m just as much a beginner as I was six years ago. Each new rapid is a chance to start over, with new positive places to fix my gaze upon. In the poem I’m sharing this month, I reflect upon the experience of teaching the look-where-you-want-to-go command to new paddlers…and applying it to a larger life goal, of seeking out places containing new growth and discovery. Enjoy!

Vision

I preach,

look where you want to go.

I see eyes down, unfocused.

Boats spin and crash.

Cusses, tears, grumbles tumble.

I repeat,

look where you want to go.

Once, a strainer snagged me,

scrambled me to a pretty pulp.

God, why?

His voice, torrential:

look where you want to go.

I dreamed I was a fish,

gulping frigid Nantahala,

grasping at isotonicity.

I dreamed I was an osprey,

cavorting in currents

cooling Carolina mountains.

I glimpsed myself

from above and below,

a wet spirit

with wide, anticipating eyes.

God said, look where you want to go.

From the blog

How to paddle less and pause more

Do you know the power of the intentional pause? This is an important skill that I coach my paddling clients on a lot. Especially because it has unfortunately been drilled into so many people that good paddling means paddling harder and faster. Great paddlers subtract strokes rather than add them. When you zoom out and

Read More »

How to work smarter

Do you feel like you’re working really hard to reach your goals, and you wish it didn’t feel so strenuous? You’ve heard the statement ‘work smarter, not harder,’ but what does that mean? If you’re a river paddler who has a good relationship with the river, you already have a unique perspective on how to

Read More »
anna levesque leading a group of whitewater kayakers down the pacuare river in costa rica

How to Practice Hard Moves on Easy Water

Are you feeling nervous or overwhelmed about taking on a new challenge, skill, practice or habit? If so, it’s time for you to practice hard moves on easy water. This is good advice in the world of whitewater kayak instruction, AND it’s good advice in life too. Practicing hard moves in easy water means to

Read More »

Get in touch!

Do you have a question? Would you like to connect and have a conversation or learn more about an upcoming retreat? Fill out the form below.