For the Central Coast Dragon Boat Association, Monday morning sessions on Morro Bay are open to newcomers; they call it, ZEN Dragon Boating. Dragon Boating is an ancient Chinese canoe sport — up to twenty paddlers per boat are guided by a steerer, and stroke to the commands of a caller, or drummer.

No, you stroke

Feel the Pain

Dragons of Boating

Only thing Zen is the water

Ahhhhh. The air is crisp, the sky is clear, the morning sun softly glows on the water’s surface. Settling in to my assigned position, I close my eyes, breathe deeply, and envision a calm meditative Zen paddle…becoming One with the ocean. We push off from the dock and gently paddle toward the open channel. Heavenly. Then suddenly, unexpectedly, disruptively like the piercing alert from the Emergency Broadcasting System, the caller (seated just behind my ears), begins shouting, “STROKE, STROKE, STROKE.”  Ho Jump Hi ! (My Chinese for Sweet Jesus!) My body jolts upward and I almost fall ‘out the boat’; I catch my paddle before it slips away. The boom of the commandant continues, “STROKESTROKESTROKE”. The pacing is maniacal. Argghhh.

After the hour session (and my ostensibly bad form), I’m wondering how to describe the experience and it hits me: First, Za dragon; Zen, the pain. Since that day my back and I have been pretty much out-of-service. A full month of limping, Epsom salts, doctor visits, an x-ray, MRI, and meds. One doctor referred to my boating experience as a “trauma triggering” event. But you know what else it’s triggered? Insight…

Acceptance: During the first couple weeks, every time my back would pinch a nerve, it jointly pinched a pity party.  “I huuurt. I can’t exerciiise. I walk funny. I whiiine.” Until one day I slapped myself upside the head. “Hey Heidi. You’ve been trusting the Universe for guidance for awhile and it works for you. Perhaps the Universe wants you slow down a bit. Calm your frenetic energy.”  So I am. I completed an online MasterClass. Reading, writing, studying. I’m  visualizing good health, and killing plants (poor orchids). While this is a temporary situation, I understand that my body is ch-aging (new word). It’s natural. This is not resignation, it’s acceptance.

Patience: A few days ago, I was gaiting like Quasimodo from the grocery store to my car. An elderly white-haired woman was shuffling toward me. Must have taken her a quarter of an hour to reach the entrance. On the other side of the parking lot, a man looking to be about her same age, was hobbling along with crutches. “Good god almighty! I fit right in with these folks!!!” I smile…at them for making the effort. For not being defeated. For adapting. I smile…at myself for knowing that the next time some slow poke is in front of me in a car, or in a line, or wherever — my exercise is to be in compassion, understanding, patience.

Perspective: I’m not limping, I’ve just got a “hitch in my giddyup” (credit to J, thank you)! I have legs. My five senses. I’m not a refugee in a war-torn country. I am alive. I am free. I love; I am loved.

Gratitude. Even if it hurts, it Always helps.

Coincidentally, last Sunday in his column for the NYTimes, Frank Bruni wrote about his rare blinding eye disorder. “While you have no control over much of what befalls you, you have plenty of control over your perspective on it, your attitude about it…You come to a fork in the road, and you choose between wallowing in self-pity and taking a good, hard look around you. I found myself thinking less about my blindness in my future and more about the blindness in my past.”


“A girl in trouble is a temporary thing.”  – Romeo Void

“I am invincible.” – Helen Reddy (Are you crazy? No i’m not, and that’s okay:)


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