I am fresh off four days of a white-water rafting trip on the Snake River in Hells Canyon, Idaho. 

My son organized the amazing trip. He curated a skilled group of facilitators and arranged the best sourced food, supplements, and a rock star chef who worked his magic breakfast, lunch, and dinner for five days. We began and ended with a dinner at a rented house.

I remain mentally and psychologically entwined with the river, taking my time to reconnect to pre-trip life. I want to retain the mindfulness from those four days with no phone and disconnected from anyone and anything other than those who shared the trip. 

We did mindful exercises and shared open-hearted conversations that filled me top to bottom. 

The takeaways were many.

As a mother, I reveled in watching my son’s hard work unfold and come to fruition. Each member of the team he amassed to support the trip performed their roles to perfection. He had a welcoming presence and deep knowledge and displayed a contagious passion. I could not be prouder of the man he is.

I thrived on each of the heartfelt shares, which showed how palpable each our humanities. As works in progress, we continue to transform to become the best version of ourselves.

I was moved to do the trip, not only to watch my son in action, but to reap the healing and health rewards it could bring. I didn’t devote thought to the rafting component till the week of the trip. I had white water rafted once before, and it frightened me. I am no adrenaline junkie, more an endorphin junkie, and while I love a challenge, I am not normally drawn to situations that leave me with little control, which is what the rapids are about. 

That said, I know my growth lies on the other side of my fear and came poised to be “Bigger Better Braver.”

The trip featured a single paddle boat—a lighter vessel where the occupants do the work and generally get thrown off here and there—and this year the water was high. The personal challenge ahead was unmistakable. My fellow rafters didn’t seem to share my fear. Rather, they coveted the upcoming rush with steely anticipation.

I had planned to stay on the other less risky boats, which are controlled by part the assembled crew, until the last day. On the afternoon of day two, however, they needed a paddle boat replacement and I spontaneously volunteered because my son was in it. Good thing I didn’t have time to dwell. Then I learned, after we boarded, we were headed toward the highest rapids of the trip and our guide offered us an opportunity to make it even more challenging with the line he could choose. Looking around me, I could see that each of the others were pumped and dug in for the thrill of a lifetime and wanted to “bring it on!” I stayed quiet and decided to go for it.

It didn’t take long before we hit a twenty-one-foot drop, putting us in free fall and sending me skyward even with my feet securely wedged into the boat. I landed flush on a metal water bottle tied to the middle of the boat, which instantly sent a searing pain into my lower back. I knew I was hurt. I spent the next two days on Advil and had to give up the hikes and any re-run on the paddle boat. Fortunately, I could raft in the other less risky vessels, allowing me to enjoy the rapids with the grace and beauty of the surroundings without fear of a repeat injury. Each day I improved and I’m confident I didn’t break my coccyx and will enjoy a full recovery soon.

A major takeaway is how I vanquished the fear of the rapids. From a place of tranquility, I tapped into a calm mind and reached a centered state in the face of that tumultuous body of water. The experience merged my greatest challenge with my greatest high, reinforcing how much control we can have over our minds, which I continue to find remarkable.

Whenever something goes awry, I ask: what is the lesson the universe wants me to learn? This time, I have struggled to find the answer. I conquered a fear and faced a challenge, but I also sustained an injury that set me back. Was the Universe trying to teach me that at my age, some chances are not worth taking? I’m not sure. I’m letting it simmer to see if time brings clarity. If anyone reading this has a take, please share it. I am open to hearing.

The greatest take away from the trip was how chill it felt to unplug. I am always on or near my phone, and so that was eye opening. I am contemplating turning my phone off for parts of each my day to allow me to be where I am and nowhere else. The world can wait. 

I also decided to meditate each day, to recapture that peace and calm from the river experience and integrate it into my life. I plan to start each morning meditation with the refrain, “take me to the river . . .”

I am profoundly happy and grateful I had this adventure. I know the experience will continue to shift in the days to come. I welcome the learnings still to unfold.

Our last night on the river we sat in a circle as if around a campfire (fires weren’t permitted). We had one guitar, and as it turned out, several capable guitar players and singers. We sang a variety of circle songs deep into the night. It was magical. 

My favorite quotes from the trip with which I will leave you were:

“Pain is the horse that beauty rides” and “Shit is the spiritual compost for new beginnings.” (Martin Prechtel)

Love and light,