Falling off a paddleboard may seem relatively harmless, but it taught me something about coping with life when it feels scary or dangerous. On a recent sunny Saturday afternoon I was paddling along Fern Dell on Mirror Lake with a friend. I was stroking smoothly, feeling sure footed, at ease and strong, the water sparkling and calm. Feeling serene and confident. Then out of the blue, I felt myself falling backward through the air.
I was shocked. Nothing had jarred my balance, nothing got in my way, I didn't bump into anything. What the ___ just happened?? I have replayed this scene in my memory, but see no clue as to what caused me to fall. The falling seemed to take a long time. Falling into a swath of the lake that was covered in a sheet of green algae. Slimy green algae. I felt the water hit my back and collapse in over my head
When was the last time you were sailing along in life and this very thing happened? Out of the blue, your balance is shaken, you are knocked off your center, and you fall. Hard. Maybe even in green muck. Suddenly free falling. Its scary as hell when it happens.
Heart pounding, I sputtered and gasped as I flailed up to the surface. I tried to hoist myself up onto the paddleboard, awkwardly hanging on with one hand to my paddle (without it I was not going anywhere on that paddleboard), but I kept sinking back into the slime, somehow getting sucked back under the board. After a few tries, I heard myself say, "stop your struggling, try to relax, and just hold on. Breathe and wait."
At times like these, we may ignore or even defy our inner guidance---our wise teacher within. Our fear and panic takes over and we fight even harder to gain back safety and balance. We resist the wisdom of giving in. By the way, in these moments, it helps to have a friend.
Hearing my friend's encouraging call, " You got this!" I tried again. I hauled my slimy self up onto that board. Crunching on the sandy bottom lake water in my mouth, I reached for my sunglasses on the top of my head, but those babies were gone. I noticed the green gunk sticking to the hairs on my arm. I sat my butt down on that paddleboard and didn't stand back up for a while.
A person's words or actions, an event---life---can knock us off our balance without any notice or warning.
And there you are. What will you do first? Will you fight or pause? Will you gasp and choke or breathe calmly in and out?
Will you listen to your wise teacher within?