rowing meditation

photography Aaron Ostrowsky (c)

You see your breath puff in clouds out in front of you with each surge in and out of your lungs as you feel the heavy weight of the boat resting on your right shoulder, your oars dangling from your left hand. Walking down to the dock in step with your boat-mate, all four footsteps echoing off the trees lining the path. Reaching the dock, it’s time to set the oars down with a short squat to reach the ground. In synchronicity you lift the boat off all shoulders and roll it over, upright and ready for the water. Stepping lightly to the edge of the dock, with a light plunk, the boat is in the water, ready to move. Gingerly climbing into the boat is done once, then twice. The oar locks click and wobble as oars are locked into them, the locks twisted and tightened down. Feet in place, oars in place, it’s time to shove off. A few half strokes to pull away from the dock and then it’s just the rower, the boat and the water.


It is so early, the birds are just waking up. Just the early birds are chattering and tweeting their good mornings. Listening to the oars move through the water provides a symphony of synchronized sounds. First the oar raises from the water leaving behind a wet towel of dripping water to be wrung out as the oar moves forward. Simultaneously the seat glides and  creaks its way back, providing the pathway that moves the boat forward. With legs crouched, ready to pounce, the oar suddenly drops. Hold still for a moment and you can see the micro-ripples run from the oar like an atomic cloud overtaking area 51. Within an instant your legs rip into action, pushing your body back up the slide until there’s no more slide to go. Your arms lock into place on the oar, pulling it with you as your upper body leans back, eking out every last inch of length. Leaning back as far as you can, it’s time to end the stroke. Your arms go down, the oar goes up and as you drift forward, the ripples become wings to your ride. To keep moving forward, the rhythm must be repeated. Repeated into monotony. Repeated into meditation. Splash. Click. Slide. Splash. Pull!. Lift. Slide. Repeat. and repeat. Until you find serenity.

There is something magical about sitting just inches above the water, gliding across a glassy lake when most of the world is quiet. That anxious, rat race energy which invades your body and mind by the end of the day is still hovering over another economy. There is only your energy, and that of your boat-mates to contend with- still a fight on its own. It’s after the warm-up that you find the peace. Just like music, you need a good rhythm. A steady rhythm to keep the forward momentum without conscious effort. In those moments where your brain is off, your body is on and the water is glassy, that is where I find my serenity.

photography Aaron Ostrowsky (c)

In my serenity, I take comfort in the ripples. Those small waves that result from even just a drop of water hitting the early morning surface. The ripples resonate across the lake. They move farther than you thought they would or could, for being caused by such a small drop. Yet there is power in the subtlety. There is rawr in that potential. So much change effected in that little ripple from that little drop falling on the glassy water.


May the Fourth be with you!


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