Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Present and Ready. Safety, Skill, and Satisfaction through Mindfulness

May 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


present and ready 1

Earlier this year, a photo of a sailor went viral on the web. While he’s seen glued to his cell phone, he’s missing a humpback whale that’s breaching right in front of his boat.  The photo, captioned, “A sign of the times,” makes an important social commentary — we rarely pay attention to what’s around us at the present moment.

Living in the here and now is called mindfulness. It’s about focusing attention and awareness on what you are doing, experiencing, and feeling. While the concept sounds quite simple, in reality, we spend a lot of our lives being anything but mindful.  We often dwell on the past, perhaps analyzing a meeting we had at work earlier in the day, or thinking about the tasks we have to perform in the future, such as what to make for dinner.  While our mind is rehashing or anticipating, we are missing what is occurring now.

Boaters need to get their heads in the present and employ mindfulness for many reasons, including safety, skill-building, and enjoying the experience of being on the water.

present and ready 2Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer, founder and director of the Center for Spirituality and Healing for the University of Minnesota, says that, “Being mindful is about noticing, slowing down, and being aware.  And aside from the philosophy, there’s a practical application for anyone who spends time on the water.  Being mindful is not only important — it’s essential for your own safety as well as the well-being of those around you.  Whoever is driving needs to be aware and anticipate what is happening with the weather, wind, and waves.”

Dr. Kreitzer, an avid boater, knows first-hand the challenges of boating and how practicing mindfulness helps. She’s spent time on Lake Pokegama, one of the lakes dotting Grand Rapids, Minnesota. “The bottom is very varied. It can go from two feet to 90 feet very quickly.  You have to know where the shallows are or you can run aground.  If you are being mindful on the water, instead of being reactive, you can be responsive. Mindfulness gives you control,” she explains.

present and ready 3Focusing on the present is a skill to be cultivated while performing everyday tasks and participating in hobbies according to Jessica Bellofatto. “Whether it be chopping a carrot, swinging a golf club, or driving a car or a boat, when there is mindfulness, there is increased skill and sensitivity,” she says.

Bellofatto, founder and director of KamaDeva Yoga in East Hampton, New York, is a surfer and enthusiastic stand-up paddleboarder (she’s one of the pioneers of yoga on the stand-up paddleboard). She believes that mindfulness helps enrich our lives and experiences and keeps us safer as well. “When we are aware on the water, mindful, sensitive, and grateful, we keep ourselves and others safe,” she elaborates.

Along with paying attention to what you are doing, practicing mindfulness helps us notice what is happening with others.  Getting our minds off yesterday or tomorrow increases our awareness of others. Such attentiveness allows us to anticipate (and prepare for) the needs of others, especially kids, older people, and pets; and to be conscious of the presence and actions of other boaters in the vicinity while we’re out on the water.

Alertness is a key component of mindfully enjoying time on the water. Disengaging the autopilot and interacting with everyone means you won’t miss those golden moments that make boating so special. Just as importantly, you’ll be safeguarding everyone’s well-being by reacting to — and avoiding — potential mishaps.

The path towards increasing mindfulness starts with a desire to stay present at all times. “As a boater, being mindful to smaller boats or vessels, being considerate, keeping music at a minimum and allowing us all to share in the bliss of the water that we are surrounded by goes a long way,” opines Bellofatto.

present and ready 4Furthermore, living in the present provides immediate rewards. “Whatever your craft of choice, a boat, a paddleboard, a kayak, a surfboard, there is something so amazing about the privilege of spending time on the water — a place that would otherwise be off limits to us without some sort of flotation device,” adds Bellofatto.  “To be on the water, to feel the sun on your skin, to listen to the birds overhead, and the sound of the water lapping up against the boat (kayak, SUP board) is to feel truly alive and grateful.  When we are not dwelling on the past or anticipating the future, the present moment is that much richer, and more amazing and magical.”

Mindfulness does even more than increase gratitude for our surroundings, have more fun, and prevent avoidable accidents. It also reduces stress, according to Dr. Kreitzer. “We so often miss living in the present moment but when you do live in the present moment, you can dramatically reduce stress, increase happiness, and positively influence your life.  Mindfulness means being able to choose the outcome,” states Kreitzer.

In an age and time when we are bombarded with technology, pressure, and other distractions, the path to mindfulness is filled with detours.  There are many ways to help cultivate it, including attending mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction classes and seminars. “There is a ton of research out there and evidence that mindfulness works.  Inasmuch as there are health benefits, it helps you get through life with ease in a graceful way,” notes Dr. Kreitzer.´

By Kara Jackson


Mindfulness-based stress reduction resources; Dr. Kreitzer shares a photo


Canoe by Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer

canoe by Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer











From Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer: My husband and daughter Rebecca made this 28.5-foot cedar strip voyageur canoe. It is always fun to get a crew out early in the day for a quiet trip around an island that is near our home.  It is quite a spectacle on the lake!  It seats 10 quite comfortably. When you are canoeing in unison, you really need to be mindful!


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