Energy Alignment in a Paddling Body
Outrigger canoe paddling and racing is a hard sport; one of the toughest I can recollect ever putting my body and mind through, it takes a special breed of paddler who truly understands pain management at its highest levels, so as to excel under the pressure.
Throughout French Polynesia you will often hear the word ‘Mana’ used. Mana, is sometimes misunderstood, but in essence mana is 'energy' not strictly 'life force' as we sometimes hear it being defined as. Mana exists in all living things and can equally be considered to exists in rocks, stones and even the largest living mass on our planet, the ocean itself.
With this concept in mind, consider then the notion that a Tahitian will tell you, they can extract this ‘mana', feed upon it, simply by placing their paddle in the ocean. Polynesians have for thousands of years used this mana to their advantage.
A Eurocentric / Eastern equivalent approach to this, might be to take a somewhat 'Zen' view on all of this in order to transcend pain itself and look it as simply energy bursting at the seams. Emma Jane Chandler, shares with us a very unique view of what the experience of canoe paddling has meant to her.
Between the lines, it questions if we should not be approaching our canoe paddling from a somewhat more ‘spiritual’ plane and see that what we are trying to achieve in the canoe, individually and collectively is not dissimilar from the challenges of life we face everyday.
While racing a hot battle for first place in the koa division, under sweltering ten o' clock Kealakekua Bay summer heat, an inner vision lifted my spirits to reveal a revelation in paddling. Overwhelmed by the heat- and intensity of the engulfing bay, I was overcome by a feeling of joy and oneness which swept through my system like a desirable cool breeze.
We were at one, each paddler a unique piece within one body of the canoe itself. I could sense we paddlers were acting as the canoes ‘'body parts' enabling it to move- forward with great ease.
In my mind's eye, I could see the alignment of our crew's attention, focused on the flight of the canoe, everyone willing to work for this feeling and in that moment, we learned how to relate well with each other in order to achieve that feeling that we were floating above and beyond our limits together.
Through our collective and focused efforts, it was as if we were communicating with the canoe itself, willing it to the finish line.
I will never forget what sitting in seat 5 meant for me in that race. It provided a revelation to my spirit and reinforced my belief that the magic of paddling resides in the mind-body experience that can be achieved every time when on the water.
The focus on competition and winning, regardless of the inner work needing to be done shifted on that day towards the collective energy of our crew.
Within our canoe, individually and as a group, we needed to shift our focus, surrendering ourselves to the canoe in order to move it beyond our given pace.
Wherever you sit in the canoe, you are acting as a link within a chain of energy. Each paddler has within them the possibility of this mind-body connection which when tapped into, transfers energy to the canoe itself.
Between the 6 seats and the hull itself, we can consider that there are 7 energy centers which is equal to the number of energy centers within the human body, also known as Chakras.
Each seat in the canoe can be associated to a Chakra in the human body. Whilst paddling you can therefore become a part of this chakra link of energy flow throughout the canoe.
Additionally, the different roles for each seat within the canoe, can correspond and be compatible with the human Chakra system as outlined;
Seat Six / Steerer
The steerer, acts as the 1stChakra of the body. As the 'earth-element' of the crew, you act as the root system and base in your canoe. Red is the associated color of the first Chakra, whilst 'body support' is the job that it entails.
The energy of this center acts on 'group safety and security', which is so appropriate for the job of the steers-person.
In the human body, the base Chakra, or Muladhara, is located at the base of the spine. Seat 6 is the initiator of flight, because it is not until we are able to lift our roots from the earth that we can soar.
Acts as the 'inner strength' or ‘'inner power' of the canoe. This is a key seat in elevating the energy within your canoe, for without inner strength, the crew has no real power.
The 2nd Chakra sits here, the color is orange and its element is water. Personality, power, and control are the responsibilities of this energy center. In the human body, the 2nd Chakra, Svadhisthana, is located in the hip region.
Seat 5 is greatly associated with 'stability', as is the hip region in the human body. Being the water element in the canoe, it is important that you can endure the constant fluctuation of water's motion from both the physical and emotional planes.
[Seat 5 is traditionally called the ‘Keeper’ the paddler who ‘keeps’ the canoe safe in relation to the steerers efforts]
The fire element in your crew. As the 3rd Chakra, you act as the 'feel' in your canoe. You are the center of the canoes 'balance' and the 'feeling' within your crew. What you feel in and about your crew is passed through the canoe as the overall feeling of the action.
Seat 3 acts as the heart Chakra in the canoe. You are the element of air. Here is the wind power, or the 'lungs of your crew'. As the heart Chakra, you are the dedication within the group.
The 4th Chakra, Anahata,represents the power of love. Centeredness is the job present to this Chakra. Acting as the heart, it is important that when you sit in seat 3, you are completely attentive, giving and present. The associated color here, is green. Its location is the heart region, inclusive of the cardiovascular and circulatory systems. The giving of love and life is the main focus in both the Chakra and seat 3 in the canoe.
Here sits the 'voice of the crew'. This seat is responsible for connecting the heart (seat 3) and the mind (seat 1) within the canoe. The color here is blue, which signifies openness.
It is your job to ensure that the energy of the crew stays open, by verbally communicating with seat 1 (the mind), which keeps the mind fresh and consistently aware in the canoe.
This is the seat of expression, through communication. Liberation and strength of will are the dominant qualities of Chakra 5, Vishuddha. Its element is ether and its corresponding body region is the neck or throat area.
Sitting in seat 2, is the crucial link between the mind (Chakra 6) and the spirit (Chakra 7) connection to the body (seats 3-6). This makes it no wonder why seat 2 is such an important place to be within a crew.
Now we have the energy travelling into seat one. So far, by this picture we are able to see where the energy movement is based, beginning with the seats at the back of the boat. Then the energy is able to rise through the body into the brain. In this case, seat one is the 'brain or mind in the canoe'. As the stroker, you are the concentration within your canoe, the third eye chakra.
Sight is the gift of seat one. However, it is insight into the energy of your crew, not visual sight.
[ Seat 1 must always be ‘feeling and sensing’ the crew behind them and deliver stroke rates, lengths and depths in alignment to work with them, not against and to get the best from them. Additionally, eyeballing the ocean and responding accordingly is critical as is connecting yourself with the steerer in relation to their course and intentions]
The Third Eye Chakra, Ajna (meaning to command), acts as the 'evaluation' and the 'truth of your crew'. The 6th Chakra relates to intellect, to thought, and to symbolic sight.
Unlike the other Chakras which all have corresponding physical elements, the 6th Chakra's energy is subtle. For the purpose of understanding a clear picture, we can visualize that the element of seat one or chakra six is thought.
Thought is an extremely light form of energy, that exists in a realm too subtle to be considered one of the physicals elements. In this light, we can see that the job in seat one, entails the pure concentration of mind.
The corresponding region in the body is the brownie, above the eyes, which allows it be known as the 'Third Eye' Chakra. The associated color is indigo.
The canoe now comes alive through the opening up of the people's energies in it. The seventh chakra is not so apparent as the others, there is no actual seat in the canoe for it. That, however is the magic of reaching into the seventh chakra energy.
Putting It All Together!
It is the oneness of the whole action, inclusive of each individual and of the canoe itself. A location of the 7th Chakra, can be visualised by its name, the Crown Chakra, or Sahasrara.
We can imagine that it rests on the tip of the manu or nose of the canoe. In the human body, the Crown Chakra is in the region located at the top of the head.
Responsibilities of this Chakra include the muscular system, the skeletal system, and the skin. Here are all of the major structural systems that keep the body together.
Another aspect of the Crown Chakra's energy is in the area of faith. Inspiration and selflessness flow from this center. It is in the touching of this Chakra that can enable an individual within a canoe to let the 'self’ go to the movement of the whole. This is also known as surrender. The element of the seventh chakra, can be viewed as spirit.
Within a canoe, Chakra 7 is equal to the connection of the other six energies in the canoe. When seats six through one are interrelating as a whole biological entity, chakra seven opens.
Selflessness provides an extensive means to give to the canoe and the Crown Chakra then acts as the energy centre for the whole. It is in this time that we are open to the infinite energy source, open to the well of inexhaustible energy. We are allowed to draw from the source of the whole, which is the pure and subtle energy of spirit.
[AKA ‘Mana’ by any other name . . . and the modus operandi into which cultures of Oceania tap into, more especially Tahitian paddlers as I have witnessed first hand]
Oneness expresses itself then, through effortless forward motion in the canoe. In this oneness exists profound advancement for each of us, individually to move beyond the smaller self into the realm of spirit.
Through the experience of effortlessness, we can touch into the feelings of fight, we can reach into a place where we give ceasessly, endure gracefully and a place where we fly forcefully.
[The expression ‘Effortless Effort’ comes to mind]
The next time that you hear, 'Reach! More reach . . . ’ yelled in the canoe, what is being asked for is a reflection of what we seek in life - greater reach to extend ourselves to be more than we know of ourselves to be.
THIS STORY AND OTHERS AVAILABLE IN KC BACK ISSUES
Emma Jane Chandler, started paddling at the age of fourteen. Being in school on the Big Island, she could not help but get involved in paddling, as her circle o f friends at the time introduced her to the sport. She was a member o f Keauhou Canoe Club, where her mother, sister and two brothers also paddled. Paddling highlights include a number o f state races 96' and 97' Liliu'o and 97' Moloka'i. Spent some of 1999 with Kai O' Pua Canoe Club. Graduated from Konawaena High School, on the Big Island, currently in South Carolina studying for a career in writing with a special interest in languages. Her article has much to do with her influence through her study of Astanga Yoga, with Norman Allen, who lives on the Big Island and paddles for Keauhou Canoe Club, a world renowned Yogi who has taken sanctuary in South Kona.