Scattered Meditations of a Rower

One week before our last race, we try rowing with our eyes closed. Our orientation within the boat forgotten, we shut out the water sliding beneath us, the banks arcing up on either side, the motor boat careening past on the left. I am weightless. Behind me, seven girls close their eyes, their only goal to mirror my movements exactly. Eight bodies rowing as one.

I am alone. I continue to move, the fluidity so ingrained in my stroke that I no longer require my sight. It is in this moment I think about spirituality.

I hold a jasmine flower between my fingers so the smell will drift upwards while we are meditating. I sit up tall, remembering with a slight smile the memories of pain and ecstasy I associate with rowing. When I close my eyes and breathe deeply and audibly, I think about crew. 

I find a strange replication of rhythm in meditating, one that seems both tangibly and comfortably familiar. I realize that from mid March to June, I meditate six days a week on the river, meditate with the same steely determination and sweat I find in the circle of stones with Mukesh Bhai and the pervading scent of jasmine.

To row is to leave all else behind, to focus solely on my breathing. To row is to contemplate more than a math test or nagging pain in my hamstring. To row is to face what I believe in and decide whether these values stand when my body no longer can.

Rowing brings me closer to who I am.

I stretch out toward this clarity in our session with Mukesh Bhai, this understanding that I feel a flickering of each time someone here assures me that spirituality and religion are not the same thing.

Mukesh Bhai tells us that service is a form of external meditation, and meditation is internal service. When I row, I often cannot separate my contributions to the boat with the immense peace I am blessed with each time I drop an oar into the water. Meditation and service flow together.

Something stirs when we sit together under the blanket of trees with Mukesh Bhai. I feel understanding where before there existed a slight unease, a lack of direction. To put a name on something I experience every day brings the ecstasy of winning a race. Something stirs that has stirred before, but today I understand. I have found a portion of my clarity.