Kitesurfing, Camping and Gratitude

For the past month I have been camping and kitesurfing at a place called Sherman Island.

It’s about an hour east of San Francisco, where the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers converge.

It is one of the most consistently windy places in the US making it an ideal location for kitesurfers and windsurfers.

Because I’m able to do all my coaching via phone (and fortunately Verizon has great service here) I

work in my camper van each morning and then go kitesurfing in the afternoon.  It’s not a bad gig!

A good part of this time I also dedicate to my practice; spending time in nature watching, reflecting and contemplating how my mind works.   I really enjoy this time to be on my own with my dog, Buddy and am grateful that my boyfriend, Christian understands how important this “alone time” is to me.

I have always considered myself to be a very independent person and the past few years have been taking more and more camping trips on my own – enjoying the solitude and quiet – and unconsciously reinforcing this “idea” I had that I am independent.

What I’ve realized though is that I’m not independent at all!

Yes, I love to spend time on my own but I am NOT “not dependent” on others, just because I’m on my own.

It’s a pretty tight knit community of kiters and windsurfers here and everyone is always looking out for each other.

These are very dangerous sports so each of us has our eyes open for someone in trouble.

Just 2 weeks ago a kiter was life lined out of here via helicopter after a bad accident where he was picked up and slammed into a metal pole and then dragged across the parking lot.

I didn’t see the accident happen but saw him afterwards lying on the ground clearly in very bad shape.

I had a minor mishap myself a week later where part of my gear came undone as I was launching – propelling my kite into a thorny mass of blackberry bushes.

Within 2 seconds there was a guy grabbing me and my harness to make sure I didn’t get dragged into the thorny bushes along with the kite!

When we’re not helping each other out on the water, then we do it with sharing what we have.  Do you need limes?

Great, take some of mine.  Are you going into town today?

Could you please pick me up some water?

Some of the kiters that live locally will come in with bags full of apples, peaches and plums and they’ll go from camper to camper leaving some for each of us.

It’s such a treat to come in from a session of kiting and find a bag of super sweet plums sitting on your door step!

So of course this all got me thinking about how independent I really am?

And the conclusion is that I’m not independent at all!

I am 100% dependent on those around me, in addition to the countless other people I’ve never met that helped to grow, harvest and deliver food and other goods to the stores for me to purchase.

To the people that helped assemble this laptop I’m typing on to the people that built the cell tower making it possible for me to make calls and post blogs from this remote location.

I could go on and on about how many people that I have never met and will never meet that have nonetheless helped me, but the list would be far too long.

As a society, we praise independence and often look down on those who are needy.  But in reality we are all needy!  Few of us could really survive for very long on our own.

It’s important that we recognize our interdependency because when you really think about it, the only response can be gratitude to all those that have helped you in the past and will help you in the future.

And the more grateful you are the kinder and more generous you are and the HAPPIER you are.

Numerous studies have shown how just keeping a gratitude journal can make us less anxious, happier and sleep better.

Sounds great, right?

“All I have to do is have more gratitude and I’ll be happier?”

Sign me up!

Well, here’s the thing about gratitude, it’s hard to have it when you’re stressed out or racing from one activity to the next.

If you’re feeling insecure, anxious, depressed, jealous or greedy…….

We all have seeds of gratitude inside of us – as well as wisdom, compassion, love, generosity, fear, anxiety, anger and depression. And it all comes down to knowing what seeds you are watering – for what you water you will get!

Meditation, mindfulness, being in nature, exercise, sleep and eating healthy are all ways we water the seeds of gratitude, wisdom, compassion, love and generosity.

And as an added incentive when we are grateful it activates regions of our brains associated with dopamine – this is the neurotransmitter most commonly associated with our motivation-reward neural circuit.  We all LIKE the feeling of dopamine A LOT!

And the added benefit is that it helps motivate us to go work out, meditate, go for that promotion, start a new career etc. and FEEL good about it!

So let’s look at interdependency again. Reflecting on interdependency gave rise to gratitude, gratitude gave rise to happiness and happiness gives rise to feelings of contentment and peace….

We are always watering what we get, so the clearer we are about what we are watering the more likely we will get the garden we want.

PHOTO COURTESY OF BERT KNOTTENBELD

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