The Construction Of A Simple Moment

“It is simply nice to paddle with less,” the young Spanish canoeist tells me. “Less noise. Less people. Just the river and me.”

He smiles and turns his attention back to the training session, which to me could easily be mistaken for a meditation in mindfulness. I observe the subtle balance of his kayak as it aligns with the river current, his precise placement of paddle strokes into the water, and the small arch in his back that propels his head a little closer to the sky.

What is the context for this simple moment?

Construction

Three miles upriver in the town of La Seu d’Urgell, our regular training venue at the 1992 Olympic canoe slalom course is closed for construction.

Workers jackhammer away at concrete in the dry riverbed of the human-made whitewater river. They brave the cold Pyrenees region weather to ready the decades-old competition course with a brand new flow of the river’s currents for next year’s Canoe Slalom World Championships that will be hosted in La Seu d’Urgell.

It is no easy endeavor. A huge crane cradles table-sized boulders in its dangling straps. The operator gently swings the boulders into the grasp of workers below and they gently nudge them into place. These huge rocks eventually will redirect the currents of the river.

When the water resumes its flow through the course, the daily training sessions at the Olympic venue also will resume with frantic and tense activity. An ongoing rotation of visiting, medal-hungry teams from around the world want to gain every possible advantage in preparation for competition on the biggest stage.

This is how it always goes. Lots of athletes assigned to one hour-long training sessions carefully navigate their high-caliber, expensive racing canoes and kayaks on the narrow river channel.

Team coaches stand and pace along the side of the river to analyze their athletes’ every move, head turn, twitch, hesitation — too much speed, too little speed, amount of angle and edge.

On weekends, the energy intensifies as tourists and visitors crowd the bridges and walkways to capture on their cameras the circus-like atmosphere.

Our temporary relocation away from the construction is downstream in Arfa. The town is a peaceful stone village of 200 residents. It is postcard picturesque with houses that overlook a beautiful single lane stone bridge that arches over the natural and free-flowing Segre River. The traffic light that signals right-of-way on the bridge is a modern day overkill for the very few cars that cross in the stretch of an hour. More bike riders use the bridge than drivers.

Beneath the bridge’s arches, I sit on a large rock that is jettisoned from the bank into the river. I am joined by more rocks and some driftwood cast there by high water flows from recent rains.

All of the surroundings reveal a moment constructed upon less.

This stands in stark contrast to our normal awareness of what can be. The simple environment wakes us up to the right now and to what is.

Soon, the athletes who I coach will arrive for their training session. The tools of measurement — stopwatches, video cameras, and heart rate monitors — will surface.

Inevitably, my moment of simplicity will move on.

Before it does, I choose to:

Enjoy the silence.
Appreciate the contrast.
Allow simplicity to find its flow.

With gratitude,

-Joe

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Hi, I’m Joe, the owner of 5 With Joe Performance Coaching. My clients are leaders, organizations, and teams who utilize my Olympic Gold Medal performance strategies and 40 years of navigating whitewater river rapids to streamline decision making and actions when engaged in complicated river currents of business and life.

The best way to interact with me is through Sunday Morning Joe, my weekly newsletter that explores the art of improving performance, overcoming challenge, and aligning with purpose for Sunday readers in search of more depth and motivation. Subscribe HERE for free.

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