Sometimes We Just Go……

July 4, 2015

Sometimes, We Just Go……

Do you ever feel that sometimes, you just need to do something when there really doesn’t seem to be any other reason than just a knowing? Something stirring inside, something telling you, “yes, go?” Today I found that when you answer that call, magical things can happen.

All week I had been wrestling with the thought of coming to Wisconsin for the Fourth of July weekend, but there were things at home that needed tending to. I could really get “caught up” if I stayed home and focused on some projects. (Do we ever really get, “caught up”, seriously?) The voice pounding in my head about “The Doing” that haunts us all. I then realized there was another voice calling…the softer voice of my soul. For some reason, it was nudging me, urging me, to go. Be where I resonate, by the water. Listen. Be.

This morning’s paddle into the inlet across the lake I call the sanctuary was the gift of the answer to that call. Up and on the water before sunrise, I experienced what I can only call holy. Sacred. So many times I have paddled here, but today, it reminded me of Heraclitus’ quote, “You cannot step into the same river twice. Each time is different, and so are you.” Today, the sanctuary was not the same and neither was I.

As I pushed off from shore onto the calm water, I heard the trumpeting call of the Sandhill cranes in the distance and the bald eagle, calling from his perch in the pine tree. As I turned to look back, I saw him alight, and fly with the freedom that only a soaring eagle can, and I gave thanks for our great gift of this country’s freedom on this day.

You never know what you might experience when you enter the sanctuary, and from a distance today, it looked as though the reeds were so tall and encroaching, you could not enter. But I knew better. There is always a way no matter how blocked or closed things seem on the waterways. And in our lives.


As soon as I entered, I heard loud splashing noises coming from behind a section of the reeds. Normally, the goofy carp are noisily splashing and jumping about, but this seemed more boisterous. As I turned and glanced to the left, two deer went hopping out of the shallow water and onto the other shoreline. I smiled at their playfulness and it reminded me of what Joan Anderson shares from her conversations with Joan Erikson, “Joy is a duty.”

Paddling further, I went to the other side to get a closer look at some cattails and interesting reed formations. In doing so, the current turned me around and I was graced by a magnificent sunrise. Had I not decided upon closer inspection of the shoreline, this glorious opening of the day would have eluded me. It made me wonder how much we miss by not taking the time to look closer at our lives, evaluating how we are spending our time and examining how all this busyness is serving us.


Back in the middle of the sanctuary, I watched an osprey fly by and land on a bare tree branch, content to be the overseer of all that was teeming below. Watching him (or her), I became very still and stopped paddling. In the stillness came the most incredible gift of the day. Emerging from the reeds was the most beautiful young buck, meandering in the water along the shoreline. I did not move. I did not want to breathe. He was magnificent and unaware of my presence. That made me feel good as I did not want to disturb his musings. He walked in the water, head down, until he was directly across from me, maybe 50 yards. And then he finally looked up and appeared startled to see me. Our eyes met and we held our gaze for a few brief moments. I have seen deer in here many times before, but never so closely. Looking deeply into his eyes connected me to all that is wild and untamed. His big, almond-shaped, brown eyes bore through me, as though he could see right to my very soul. Piercing. It was as though he was telling me, “THIS is right living. THIS is essential. Don’t EVER forget the essence of who you are.” And then, he turned, flicked his white tail and bounded out of the water into the woods. I still couldn’t breathe. I felt as though he opened my heart and poured it out for all the world to see. I sat there a long time, trembling, shaken by the feeling of everything internal being exposed in this instant. I wondered how I would put it all back and then I thought, do I? Should I? This indescribable moment reminded me that exposure is wonderfully freeing, whether everyone or no one is there to see it.


As I paddled around the bend, I decided to head out to one of the nearby islands, instead of going the usual way out. The normal route was filled with tall lily pads and imposing reeds, and it felt too confining to go in there today. Going this new direction opened me to never before seen vistas. Through a downed tree branch I gazed at a familiar shoreline, seeing it new for the first time.


Through nature’s window, I saw the reaching lily pads and the sentinel reeds in the sanctuary differently.


Very simple changes, yet reminders that we can feel refreshed by subtle shifts. Major changes often shove us in new directions, but gentle, continual shifts and adjustments can keep us on course. Help us to navigate the ins and outs and comings and goings. Help us to stay centered in the midst of chaos. Help us to be true to ourselves.

The blessings of the morning continued, as the sun rose higher, it was greeted by passing clouds, and the softness of the sky felt comforting and healing, wrapping me gently in its cozy blanket of peacefulness. Preparing me for the next set of glorious, cresting waves that will inevitably wash over my life.


Paddling back across the lake is usually challenging, being mindful of the increase of passing boats. But even the fisherman were serene today, all the boats on the water quiet. I did not feel the need to hurry across, but took my time and frequently stopped in the middle of the lake. Funny how I can feel so “grounded” on the water. I did not want to come off the lake, but knew that soon, the speed boats and jet skis will emerge, with humans frantically scurrying about. Bringing their hectic land lives onto the water with a frenzy. But perhaps for them, that is their sense of freedom, of unabashed joy. To each his own. If they can reclaim a piece of themselves in this way, then that is what matters.

For me, this morning, I knew why I had come. The signs and the answers for my soul were everywhere. On this day celebrating our country’s freedom, I realized that I am grateful for the freedom to experience ALL of life, to relish and cherish it. The freedom to know that in each experience, we grow, we become more of who we are, and who we are meant to be.

Today, what is your “knowing?”

Look and listen deeper. What is the gentle call of your soul’s desire?

What simple step can you take today to answer that call?

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The Zen of Preparation

May, 2015

The Zen of Preparation

One of my favorite Zen sayings is, “Chop wood. Carry water.” These simple four words refer to the simplicity of everyday tasks, and the benefits of working through those seemingly mundane undertakings with mindfulness.

Almost as much as being on the water in my kayak, I love the preparation for a new season. Hauling the Red Kayak Institute’s trailer, Clickety Clack, out of the garage and inspecting her for her upcoming hauling duties fills my soul with the excitement of a new paddling season. There is much to do and this year I decided to work through my anticipation being present to the task at hand slowly and mindfully.

To get ready for our season, I haul all the boats out, clean the exterior and vacuum out the interior. Peering inside the boats, I find remnants of last year’s season – sand, dry leaves, brittle twigs and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Kind Bar wrappers. I duct tape a few cracks in the seats and I smile at the many memories of my time on the water last year – with the retreaters who participated with the Institute, the sharing of their thoughts and insights from being on the water, fun times with friends and a few fabulous solo paddles. I think of everyone who was able to reclaim a bit of themselves by experiencing the healing benefits of being on the water. The memories fill me with a sense of gratitude.

Zen1As I scrub out old coffee stains and apply this year’s coat of UV Tech protection, I realize that I am also preparing myself, by opening my heart for the wonders to be received on the water this new season. Like with the kayaks, I scrub off the old outlived parts of my life and vacuum out the dust of what no longer serves me to make way for the unlived.  I find myself craving the unknown.

Preparation is an important part of our journey. Often we rush through this step to get to the actual event itself. Today I discovered a peacefulness in the process and realized that attentiveness to the pacing of things can calm my spirit almost as much as being on the water. Almost. Maybe. Well, not really.

A big part of preparation is letting go, sort of a “spring cleaning” of the soul. I recently read a list of things entitled 10 to Zen that I wanted to share with you:

  1. Let go of complaining
  2. Let go of competing
  3. Let go of judgements
  4. Let go of anger
  5. Let go of regrets
  6. Let go of worrying
  7. Let go of blame
  8. Let go of guilt
  9. Let go of fear
  10. Have a proper belly laugh every day, especially if it’s about you inability to let go of any or all of the above.

I finish cleaning the boats and load these sacred vessels on Clickety Clack and step back to see how beautiful she looks with eight boats ready for our first paddle of the Recovery on the Water series. She is ready to go and so am I.


My new favorite Zen saying, “Haul boats. Paddlin’ on.”

At every step of our lives we are preparing for something. What are you preparing for now? Is it a big step in your life, or something small yet necessary?

Have you been able to really spend some time pondering what you are preparing for and how that will affect your next steps?

How can you prepare in a mindful way that will bring peace and calm to your process?

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What is Leadership?

March 2015

What is Leadership?

Watson Lake is a sweet little 70-acre reservoir tucked away in Prescott, AZ. This body of water is formed by the damming of Granite Creek, and is surrounded by some of the most unusual rock formations. Through thousands of years, this exposed bedrock has been weathered into rounded domes by a process called onion-skin weathering. By peeling away altered layers of rock, what remains are these core stones, the soul of these unique boulders.


What a perfect setting for the inaugural Red Kayak Institute Leadership Academy paddle.  One of the many benefits of kayaking for me, is it takes me back to my core, to the essence of who I am. Being pared to only the essentials in this small vessel, along with the immediacy of the water, has allowed me, over the years, to return again and again to my authentic self, peeling away my own “altered layers.”

We are graced with beautiful blue skies, 65 degrees and calm waters. As we push away from shore, accompanied be a flock of geese, we are suddenly unmoored by anything that is holding us back. Saging, drumming and paddling in silence are in order for the day.


As I watch these women paddle away for their 2-hour retreat in silence, I am in awe of the many gifts and talents they possess and I realize that with the Leadership Academy, a new paradigm is emerging at the Red Kayak Institute. “Leadership,” according to Martha Mayhood Mertz, author of Becoming Athena: Eight Principles of Enlightened Leadership, “is a matter of how to be, not how to do.” And kayaking on Watson Lake today is all about “being.”

I had the honor of meeting Martha recently, and as the day unfolded, her principles of enlightened leadership were evident in the paddlers, each, in their own way. Martha’s Athena Leadership model captures the essence of not only leadership, but I believe life lessons as well. They are as follows:

  • Live authentically
  • Learn constantly
  • Advocate fiercely
  • Act courageously
  • Foster collaboration
  • Build relationships
  • Give back
  • Celebrate

Many women don’t see themselves as leaders, and yet don’t we all embody some or all of these traits? Just by living authentically we lead from our core, our truest self. We are continually challenged to move along our life path, honoring and celebrating the choices we’ve made and the risks we’ve taken. And when we can, giving back and selflessly devoting time and energy for the good of the whole.

On the water today, one of our exercises was to come up with a single word that not only resonates with where we are now, but provides a beacon for growth for the remainder of the year. In our final group sharing, we passed around the red kayak and revealed to each other our new thoughts and insights from the day. Words such as discipline, adventure, balance, freedom, strength, loyalty, believe, completion, courage and expansion emerged. Words of leadership. Enlightened leadership. Leadership from the core. Altered layers peeled away.



Which of Martha’s leadership principles resonate the most with you and why?
How can you continue to live these principles every day?
If you had to choose one word for yourself for the remainder of the year, what would that word be?Post it in a prominent place to remind you every day to live your word.

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