This is the Rhythm of the “boat” 

Source: cbc.ca

During our canoe pilgrimage from Midland to Montreal, I had a lot of time to think! Six to eight hours of paddling will give you that.  More importantly however, I had the time also to “feel.”  Namely I could feel when everyone was together, paddling in unison, and when something in the boat would be off. I could feel the rhythm of the boat so to speak.

For example, I remember being in a boat with some friends, and in the beginning I was paddling very hard and it felt like we were not going anywhere as a group.  However, at a certain point, I stopped focusing on what I was giving to the canoe, and I attempted to pay attention to the power already present in the canoe given by the other paddlers.

It was almost like there was a force already present in the boat, and all I had to do was connect to it. And when I connected to that energy, and everyone in the group was also connected – we flew! What’s more it wasn’t my strength, my endurance, or my power that was pushing the group forward. It was the group acting together in unison that had the greatest effect on our speed.

Source: cbc.ca

This little example reminds me of one of the sayings of Christ, “unless a grain of wheat fall to the ground and die it cannot bare fruit.”  In the canoe it seemed I had two options, connect to my own desires, my own feelings of fatigue, my own frustrations at who was paddling and not.  Or I could die to all these elements present in my ego.  I could die to this, and put before my eyes the efforts and strength of the group.  In a brief moment I forgot about myself, and my energies were brought together in harmony with the group.

I can hear my audience saying, what are you talking about?! Maybe it’s crazy, but I think you notice some of these deeper elements of groups dynamics when you have 6-8 hours of time both to think and to feel.

Raj Vijayakumar, SJ is a Jesuit scholastic studying philosophy in Toronto.

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