Surfing the waves of the mind
The ocean has a way of drawing you in. It inspires a sense of awe and takes your breath away by the transformational nature it exhibits. You may be fascinated by the depth of the abyss, the expansiveness of its area, the calmness it can bring or the chaos it displays. It even has a way of changing without warning, catching you completely off guard. You may seek to ride its waves, or you may bathe in the joy it soaks you in. It may bring solace in times of uncertainty or be the mirror of your emotions.
The vastness of the sea cannot be reduced to simply one thing as its form and function differs according to the person perceiving it. It is a place that has long invoked wonder, awe, peace and maybe even fear but its presence will call to you in its own distinct way. The ocean in many ways, is not dissimilar to the mind and through the lens of awareness, it acts as the ideal metaphor for what you might be experiencing within.
Most mornings surfers wake up and check the tides if they haven’t already done so the evening before. Yet how often do you give yourself the opportunity to contemplate your mind before starting the day? This simple review, a ‘stepping back’ from thoughts and actions, offers a wider perspective to take life in from. When you ‘zoom out’ you see more and you’re able to view life from a grander perspective.
Conditions for surfing differ greatly day to day, sometimes it is flat and calm and at other times stormy and windy. Surfers may head down to the beach to check out the waves personally, casting their eyes over the swell building on the horizon. Similarly, when you are able to turn your gaze inwards and cast your awareness upon what is going on in your mind, you create distance. This may help you to see that you are not your mind, which is a great relief! This realisation can assist you in gaining more clarity and direction so as to choose different choices.
Sometimes you are given little warning before a swell picks up, both in terms of the mind and out at sea. A change comes, seemingly out of nowhere catching you off guard.
Yet, on closer inspection, there are always small, subtle signs that go unnoticed. These are indicators that there maybe a change on the way. When in the thrill of the moment or when everything is moving along with ease and grace, these sign posts are easily bypassed or flat out ignored.
Do you ever have those times where something just doesn’t feel quite right? Something inside (your gut, your heart, your intuition) may be urging you to reconsider your position on something.
These warning signs tend to get overlooked because for most of people, slowing down so as to be able to notice them isn’t an option. Occasionally you may notice that something is not right, yet you hope and pray that if you don’t feed it attention this small intolerance will just go away by itself. More than likely though, denial and avoidance will simply lead to a larger issue in the future.
As you may have noticed, if you give most things enough time, they eventually subside. This may not be without a lot of frustration, angst, fear and energy being spent along the way. Navigating these waters can be perilous when getting continuously pounded by the intensity of waves, whether this be physically or figuratively (in terms of relating the incessant chatter of ones mind). It is when these waves are the most dramatic, that the need for a moment of repose, to regather strength, is most needed. Trying to regain your footing and escape during this time is often the hardest thing to do.
The easiest way out of these situations is in direct contrast to what feels natural. When you resist, struggle, fight and fail to accept what is, then the pressure of the present moment drags you further under, getting you caught in the current. Your fear arises telling you that you will never be free from the position you’re currently in.
It is always hardest to let go of control at the height of suffering as drowning appears to be the only option.
It is only WHEN you accepts this, that a powerful force can move though you on its own, expertly navigating you to where you need to be. When a set of waves is descending upon you and you have little time to think, the act of staying calm so as not to use up vital energy is challenging but imperative, so that your fears don’t claim you.
Maximising success with proper planning.
Finding the right conditions to learn to surf in is just as important as the board you have. If you are in waves that are too big or you’re too close to others that are also learning, then the chance of being overwhelmed can be high. Securing a quieter space with a larger area to practice in is helpful in creating a harmonious and secure environment where you feel more empowered to stand up on the board. A good teacher is also of upmost importance as their guidance will assist you in understand the terrain better and alerting you to anything not seen under the surface.
Interestingly, meditation is not too far different from this picture.
Many people want to learn how to begin to meditate yet their minds are so overactive and they are so stressed, that leaping into this practice can end up leaving one feeling even more agitated as they simply cannot ‘get it’. The beautiful and peaceful images that the mind creates of someone sitting serene and content in meditation are not usually achieved upon first practice. Just as you cannot expect to be a pro surfer the first time you hit the waves. Both skills take time and effort to become proficient at. Learning to surf is like learning to meditate: it becomes easier when harnessed with additional preparatory practices. Breathing exercises and intentional movement assist the body in calming down and slowing the fluctuation of the mind so the person learning to meditate can find a calmer wave to cruise upon.
There is a very fine balance between standing and falling, riding and toppling. Whether the practice be surfing or meditation, the analogy is the same . The only way to become more sensitive to that fine line which exists between slack and tension is to do it over and over and over again. This sense of accomplishment is not something that happens quickly, often it takes a long time to feel that any real ground has been covered. This is also the time when it is easy to give up as the satisfaction of witnessing growth and progress appears non-existent.
Progress is something you often wish to see but so much has to shift within before any of the changes that have occurred internally become apparent on the surface. The desire to witness improvement comes from the place of ego (not that that is a bad thing) as you want to see something tangible for all the hard work that you’ve have put in. Patience is the only balm that will soothe this graze as feistily storming off out of the surf when your ass has been handed to you multiple times in one day is enough to make you want to hang up your board forever.
The only thing that will make you show up time and again is your determination not to prove yourself to yourself but simply because somehow you know the act of showing up and doing the work is refining a part of your being.
Post surf moments of bliss.
Want to know why it takes so long to get proficient at surfing? Because your time on the board is far less than the build up of effort and energy required to get there. Eventually after much time in applying yourself, one day you’ll catch a wave perfectly and those moments that follow make the entire experience worth while.
In your meditation practice, there will eventually come a time when after having committed yourself continuously that you reach that place of deep connection. You’ll have that experience of becoming something ’more’ than what you know yourself to be. When you are able to sit and be completely absorbed in the present moment you begin to see that the ocean, waves, thoughts and life are all a part of you and will continue to rise and fall in equal measure.
Both surfing and mediation require a decent amount effort and persistence. When reached, the outcome of both is the same: pure bliss. It may take time to get there but if you are committed to practicing, then as a result of your hard work the rewards are assured.