They call it a break, the tipping point of a cresting wave, and it can break you if you aren’t tuned in, adjusting your body to the cycle of the swell. High risk physical activities like surfing have a way of focusing my attention. The ocean’s power and surge can strike us down and scrape us along the sand or coral bottom. To swim or surf in the ocean we have to attune to the rhythms of the wave, have courage and be alert. On vacation in Hawaii last week I watched people express joy, fear and thrill in the surf. I noticed how positively addictive emersion with a higher power can be.
The ocean challenges my sense of safety. I hesitate to rely on something outside of myself for survival, such as an oxygen tank when scuba diving or a surfboard to float on unyielding waves. Yet the magnetic pull of the ocean’s energy is more powerful than my fear. I took the plunge and learned to surf. One moment I was happily floating on the crystal blue ocean the next I had saltwater up my nose and was praying for my life, caught by the full force of a cresting wave. When I harnessed a wave, stood up on my surfboard and found balance, it felt effortless to ride that powerful sweet spot of energy. But if I wasn’t ready for the arrival of the wave or my body was not in alignment with her flow, I was picked up and churned into the sea, bobbing back to the surface like a cork on the other side of the wave. Heightened awareness brought on by immediate consequences that may cause pain cleared my mind.
Surfing forced my awareness into the present moment. To enjoy the sweet spot and not be beat up by the waves I had no choice but vigilant attentiveness to the endless ocean horizon, reading the rhythm of organic motion as each wave manifest before my eyes. It turned my mind to gratitude for the experience of my physical body. Appreciation for all that my body does for me without complaint at the instance I ask it: walk, swim, bend, breathe, balance, see, hear and feel. Through gratitude and attentiveness I become more aware of how my body informs my intuitive response.
I liken my relationship with the ocean to the cycles in my life. Sometimes I’m connected to the flow, effortlessly tuned into my inner voice and making choices that align with that energy. Other times I’m off balance, not tapped into my inner resources and it feels life is thrashing me about. In those challenging cycles I long for relief from the series of waves that keeps crashing into me, to catch my breath and regain my center. The respite eventually comes, I reconnect with the flow. In all that thrashing about, stress and stretching I have been relieved of many mental and emotional burdens that were no longer serving me. I’ve learned something and feel different lighter, stronger and empowered.