Being on the Ocean with Friends

In the movie “Chariots of Fire,” an outstanding British runner becomes an Olympian. He explains the connection between his faith and his running, “When I run, I feel His (God’s) pleasure.”  
I can relate to this experience. As a lifelong athlete, I have played tennis, run marathons, done triathlons, and competed in long-distance open water swimming. In the past two years, I have taken up something new to me – outrigger canoe paddling -and cut back on other sports. You could say that I am serious or obsessed with paddling and not obsessed with other sports, for now. It is said that the cure for an obsession is to get another one. (Mason Cooley)
When I paddle, I feel God’s pleasure.  
There are a lot of aspects to paddling. There is belonging to the community of the club and individual team. There is a culture of inclusivity and friendliness as well as competitiveness. Racing together adds to the camaraderie of the crew and the team. At regattas (shorter distance racing), we spend the day together cheering each other on, eating pot luck, taking photos, and talking story with one another. I am signed up for some trips for longer distance races where we will hang out together, like Around the Rock/Alcatraz in San Francisco and the Queen Liliuokalani on the Big Island. Belonging to community is a spiritual need for people and the paddling community meets that need in many of us.  
Many folk in Hawai’i are part of the paddling community; it gives me an automatic rapport when I meet new people. When I bought a pair of water shorts today, the salesman and I had a good chat about our different teams and the arrival of the Hokule’a, a Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe completing its three-year circumnavigation of the earth. My canoe club New Hope will be paddling thirteen canoes out to greet the Hokule’a tomorrow morning near Ala Moana Beach Park, where we will join with other canoe clubs on the water. The return of the Hokule’a is a historic occasion, which inspires great pride in the Hawaiian residents.
Paddling is also in-spiriting or inspirational. The water is clear, turquoise, green and blue, allowing us to see tropical fish, honu (sea turtles), manta rays and occasional sharks. Sometimes, the waves toss us around or cause us to huli (turn over), reminding me of the power of the ocean. It is an environment to respect! The horizons of green mountains, sandy beaches and the enormous sea speak to me of the immensity and beauty of creation and the Creator. Is it any wonder that I feel so enthusiastic (en-theos, the root of the word enthusiastic, means “in God”)?
Focusing on paddling technique and synchronicity with my teammates is all-absorbing. I am paying such attention to counting or stroking or steering that all other concerns and worries fall away. I feel the canoe ideally gliding with our strokes or feeling heavy in the water when we are not paddling in synch. “Reach, place, push down, pull back, return…1,2 on the stroke, 1 on the return,” I am concentrating. Being in the now is all that matters. Paddling is all about mindfulness to the present experience, which is the heart of the abundant life. The rabbi whom I follow said, “I have come that you might have life and have it in abundance.”
So, when I paddle, I feel God’s pleasure in my being part of the community, being inspired by creation and the Creator, and being in the present moment. May you feel God’s pleasure today in whatever is good and beautiful that absorbs your attention. May you be inspired and live with ease as you focus on the present moment. And may you find peace.