A famous business school delivered an extraordinary lecture, some years ago. Without explaining the professor of the economic class stood silent at his disk. He took from below a large clear glass jar and filled it with stones, until he could get no more in. He placed them softly as not to break the fragile glass.(1)

When he had calmly finished he asked his class of graduate students if the jar was full. They answered with the obvious – yes. Without correction the professor then picked up a small handful of gravel and poured it into the jar. The gravel filled the spaces that were left between the stones.

Again he asked the class if the jar was full. Now, this was a bright class and they had cottoned on to him. They expected the space between the gravel to now be filled. They were correct, the professor held fine sand and sifted it into the jar. The jar now seemingly full of stones, gravel and sand sat still on the desk.

The class could now see that what once looked full had space for much more. Although this was not the end. Far from it. Into the jar the professor poured a small jug or water. The water then filled all the gaps in the jar, always finding a way to take up the space.

Now whilst this short anecdote appears at first sight to having nothing to do with paddling I believe that it does. It is the outline of the foundations for why I paddle. It is a lesson in priorities.

If the items were placed in the jar in reverse order, they would not fit, something would be left over

For me I can break it down to the core skills I use in kayaking. I see many people on the water that always have something left over, they don’t embrace the full experience, always not quite grasping the whole jar. They are filled with regret, frustration of a misplaced line or confusion of ‘what just happened’.

Its like the building blocks to their experience have been built in reverse.

I can easily see that the water, knowledge base and skills of the flesh, can be applied as the sand, gravel and water in the anecdote our supposed base functioning but this leaves out the stones, the relationship unfulfilled and a remainder is a left over.

Those that have cared to read previous posts will be aware that kayaking is more to me than the base functioning alone. It is a matter of jest for those that fear to try and understand, that is fine – we all have our own reasons and philosophies. For my part, the stones represent the soul and essence of our time on the water. The meditation state, without boundaries, the place of the inner mind. It is the first place we go and the primer for all experience, without which I feel we always loose out.

I reckon that we make the nearest approach to knowledge when we have the least possible intercourse or communion with the body, and our not contaminated with the bodily nature {…} (2). This is and forever will be the reason I paddle, to gain knowledge that is not facilitated in the text book manner of coaching platforms. This is a deeper knowledge, a place that can be glimpsed in the reflection of the water. A place that requires no correct paddle placement or developed skills base. It is the first in our jar, the largest and most important piece of our activity. A jar full at first sight but with plenty of hidden space for investigation.

I will keep working on theses ideas, some of which will be brief and other expanded. Some readers will accept and others throw in the trash, but that is of no matter. It is the discourse that I strive for, the understanding of the spirit and the rolling of the water.

(1) Inspired by the story and belief systems of Ajahn Brahm

(2) Taken from the works of Plato ‘Selections from Plato text 1940’.

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