Friday, September 14, 2007

Surf's Up!

Recently, I found myself in a most unexpected situation. I was in a wetsuit, in the Pacific Ocean, waves crashing around me, attempting to get on a surf board! A SURF BOARD! I never, in my entire life, thought that I would be trying to learn to surf! Especially at age 43. In my opinion, surfing is for young, agile kids and it requires many things I do not posses: athletic ability, a healthy, uninjured body and physical coordination.

Through a series of events, I found myself carrying a giant surf board down to Indian Beach near Cannon Beach Oregon. I was scared. I have a strange and not completely understood problem with my low back. I was really afraid that I might cause myself great harm by attempting this activity. I've always admired surfers. I mean... they are cool! I never dreamed I would be one of them!

As the instructor gave me the basics in ocean safety and scared me about the rip tides, I resigned myself to the fact that I was really going to be hauling this giant board into the ocean and attempting to stand up on it. Utterly amazing!

I received the basic instructions for how to get up on the board, along with some modifications that might help me deal with my low back and hip challenges.

We headed out into the ocean (pretty small waves, but still... the OCEAN!) The instructor helped me get on the board (lying on my belly) and gave me the cue to paddle at the exact right moment. I paddled like the dickens, and then went through my little 'procedure' to stand up. I actually got up on my very first wave!!! No one was more astonished than I was! It was thrilling and extremely fun!

I proceeded to get up on several waves in a row. With each successful 'ride' I built confidence and experienced a deeper and deeper sense of satisfaction. I was surfing!

After about 6 rides of varying length, I went in to a little 'slump' and I couldn't seem to get up. I was tired and thought for awhile that my fatigue was the reason for my slump. On yet another ill-fated attempt, I had a revelation. One of the instructions from my surfing instructor was this: "When you are on a surfboard, wherever you are looking is where you will go." This was a very important teaching. She used it with regards to changing directions proactively. She also said that if I became aware of another surfer in my path, that the tendency would be to stare at them. She admonished me to resist this urge and look away from the surfer. "Look where you want to go, not where you don't want to go!" She warned that if I stared at the other surfer I would run right in to them without fail. It was an interesting concept that I had heard her say and remembered for awhile, but then seemed to forget.

As I went down on that particular unsuccessful attempt, I realized that at the critical moment when I was about to stand up, I looked down at the surfboard and instantly crashed and fell off the board! Instantly. Ah-Ha! I realized that I was consistently looking at the board, my feet and the water and indeed that is where I was ending up!

My very next attempt (and the next many after that) were all successful to varying degrees and I was actually astonished at how much of a difference it made to trust that my feet would go onto the right place on the board, and look up towards the shore, straight ahead. It made it so much easier to stand up and ride successfully! It was an awesome moment of realization and clarity!

Of course, this idea, "Where you look is where you will go" is true in life as it is in surfing. What we place our attention on is what we are most likely to manifest or attract. If we set and focus on a goal, we are quite likely to achieve it. If we focus on the obstacles and difficulties in our path, we are likely to go nowhere. It was a profound lesson that I received from my surfing instructor that day and a good reminder to stay focused on that principle in my life in general. It is always inspiring and motivating when we get the chance to experience a concrete demonstration of an important spiritual or theoretical principle. I got a very down to earth example of how 'where we look' and 'what we put our attention on' is critically important to where we will end up as well as to the quality of the journey itself. Will we crash and burn? Or will we look to the horizon and ride the wave of adventure and fulfilment? I vote for riding the wave and tasting the exhilaration of letting the wave carry us to the place of our dreams and aspirations.

Surf on!

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