The sport of sea kayaking can be exciting, relaxing, fun and rewarding at one moment and cold and terrifying the next. It all depends on the type of conditions you find yourself paddling in.
I have seen the faces of my students turn from shear pleasure to stark horror when faced with even the simple task of learning how to perform a proper, “clean”, wet exit from the tight confines of a closed cockpit of a sea kayak.
When I recognize this “look of terror” in the eyes of my students, I will give them breathing exercises to perform along with a creative visualization of the task at hand. This aids to calm their nerves and help prevent the onset of panic that can paralyze even the most avid paddler.
Any kayaker who will add the discipline of meditation, along with exercise, into their daily routine will find it to be a very helpful tool when faced with the possibility of your kayaking adventure turning into cold terror.
The following technique of the Tibetan, Tummo, meditation relaxes the mind, lowers the heart rate and blood pressure and increases body temperature. A perfect fit to the art of sea kayaking!
Inner Heat Meditation (tum-mo)
From How to Meditate: A Practical Guide by Kathleen McDonald (Wisdom Publications).
Sit comfortably in your meditation place and generate a strong positive motivation for doing this inner heat practice. Determine to keep your mind relaxed, concentrated and free of expectations for the entire session.
Start by visualizing the central channel (shushuma) as a transparent, hollow tube, a finger’s breadth in diameter. It runs straight down through the center of the body, just in front of the spinal column, from the crown of your head to the base of your spine.
Next, visualize the right and left lateral channels (nadis), slightly thinner than the central one. They start from the right and left nostrils respectively, travel upwards to the top of\ the head and then curve over to run downwards on either side of the central channel. They curve inwards and join the central channel at a point approximately four fingers breadth below the level of the navel.
Take as long as you like to construct this visualization. Once it is stable, imagine a redhot ember the size of a tiny seed inside the central channel at the level of the navel. To strengthen this visualization, imagine reaching into a fire, taking out a tiny glowing ember and placing it in your central channel. Once it is there, really feel its intense heat.
Now, in order to increase the heat, gently contract the muscles of the pelvic floor, concentrating on the internal rather than the external muscles, and in this way bring air energy up from the lowest chakra (energy wheel or center) to the ember.
Next, gently take a full breath through the nostrils. The air travels from the nostrils through the right and left channels to where they enter the central channel just below the level of the navel. The air joins with the heat there and with energy brought up from below.
As you stop inhaling, immediately swallow and push down gently with your diaphragm in order to firmly compress the energy brought down from above: now the air energy is completely locked in, compressed from above and below.
Now, hold your breath as long as it is comfortable to do so. Concentrate completely on the ember in the navel area, whose heat is increasing and spreading as a result of the compressed air energy.
When you are ready, relax your lightly tensed muscles and exhale gently and completely. Although the air leaves through the nostrils, visualize that it rises up through the central channel and dissolves there. The heat emanating from the burning ember at the navel continually increases and spreads and starts to burn away the blockages at each chakra and starts also to warm the concentration of silvery blissful energy found at the crown chakra.
However, the focal point of your concentration is always the heat of the burning ember in the navel area. Once your first exhalation is complete, again tighten the lower muscles, inhale a second time, swallow and push down with diaphragm, thus again compressing the air on the heat, then exhale, releasing the air up the central channel once again.
Repeat the entire cycle rhythmically seven times altogether, the intensity of the heat growing with each breath.
At the seventh exhalation, imagine that the now burning-hot ember explodes into flames. They shoot up the central channel, completely consuming and purifying the delude energy at each chakra. At the crown, the flames finally melt and release the silvery blissful energy, which pours down the purified central channel giving pleasure at each chakra it passes.
Finally, when it meets the blazing ember at the navel chakra, there is an explosion of bliss. This blissful heat flows our to every atom and cell of your body, completely filling you, making your mind very happy.
Concentrate on this pleasure without tension or expectation, without clinging to it or analyzing it. Just relax and enjoy it.
You will notice that, no matter how strong the pleasure is, your mind and body are calm and controlled, unlike our usual experiences of physical pleasure when the mind is excited and uncontrolled.
If your mind should wander from its concentration to other objects the past or future, objects of attachment or aversion- focus your attention on the subject of the thought, the mind that perceives the distracting object, the thinker. Watch the subject until the distracting thought disappears, then concentrate again on the blissful feeling.
Analysis of feeling: Having reached a state of clarity, it is good to use it to discover the nature of your mind. After concentrating on your feeling, being absorbed in it for some time, analyze it by contemplating each of the following questions. Take as long as you like.
Is the feeling permanent or impermanent? How? Why?
Is the feeling blissful or suffering? How? Why?
Is the feeling related or unrelated to the nervous system and in the mind? How?Why?
Does the feeling exist inherently, from it own side, without depending on anything else, or not? How? Why?
Examine each point from every angle. Finish the session by summing up your conclusion, and then dedicate any positive energy and insight gained during the meditation to your speedy enlightenment for the sake of all living beings.