I’ve recently rediscovered my enthusiasm for kayaking.
In the past, I’ve kayaked on a pond in Cape Cod, on the Charles River in Boston and on Westlake Lake. Those excursions were journeys of calm exploration.
I’ve also kayaked in the ocean in Santa Barbara and near the Channel Islands. Those treks, on the other hand, were stress-filled, water-soaked battles with the currents.
If I were seeking a good physical workout, ocean kayaking would be my choice, but what I really enjoy about kayaking is how meditative it can be for me.
After my often inelegant entry into the kayak, as I begin dipping my paddle into the water, I’m immediately filled with a sense of contentment. The act of kayaking is nourishing and healing to my soul.
I am with nature—surrounded by trees, water, birds, clouds, the sun and the sky. I am using my arms to power myself, doing something good with my body. And my mind is quiet and I am present in the moment.
The experience doesn’t end with my clumsy exit out of the kayak. It stays with me throughout the day, and I carry it with me as I drift off to sleep.
Walking in the woods is meditative for me too.
After I park my car at the forest’s edge, I walk as far as my feet and mind carry me. When I stop to rest, I lie in a clearing, close my eyes, feeling the sunshine on my face and listening to the sounds of the forest. Again, I can carry that with me throughout my day.
One such walk was so special that it specifically comes to mind when I need to conjure up a pleasant thought.
And I call forward an equally memorable time kayaking on the Charles River when I want to relive a great experience.
Until I kayaked again on Westlake Lake after a 10-year hiatus, I really had forgotten how physical interaction with nature can nourish my psyche so significantly.
In the next few days I will turn 60. Since my husband is out of town on my actual birthday, I’ve planned a day to be by myself, with the intent of thinking about what I want in the next 30 or 40 years of my life.
I learned long ago that getting what you want happens only when you set goals for yourself. I cannot think of a better exercise to celebrate my birth than to contemplate what it is that will bring me contentment in the coming years.
I’m certain that karma or serendipity delivered my recent kayaking experience to me so that I could recognize one thing I do want in my future: frequent interactions with nature.
As for now, if you see me in my kayak on Westlake Lake, know that I am in my happy place.
Have you discovered what brings you happiness?
Andrea Gallagher, a certified senior advisor, is president of Senior Concerns, a nonprofit agency serving Ventura and western Los Angeles counties. Visit seniorconcerns.org or email email@example.com.