by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac
~ inspired by Andrew’s new book, Barefoot ~ A Surfer’s View of the Universe
Surfing is a metaphor for life. “Surfing through life” gives the impression that everything is easy and that everything is ok. If you are a surfer, it would appear that you subscribe to this belief. If you’re not, it certainly is the attraction. I started surfing in my teens and it has been an experience I’ve taken with me throughout life. Here are the top 10 lessons the sea has given me…
1. Respect: Respect is an essential lesson to learn in life. As a surfer, you learn respect for the water as the metamorphosis of the ocean is constant. It is never the same on any given day. There is no place for “ego” in surfing. If you get too cocky and all-knowing, the waves pound you into submission. This is also a lesson in humility. Respect is the underlying glue that holds the world together. Surfers have an unspoken code. Respect the line-up. Respect the locals. They are the foundation of any surf spot and they set the rhythm. Follow their lead. This is also a lesson you could apply to life. New at your job, just starting out in a new field, or learning the ropes in a new profession? Hang back. You will always benefit if you observe. Learn from others. Learn what to do and NOT to do. Along with communication and awareness, respect is the common thread of any relationship.
2. Growing inner strength: The process of mastering your inner struggles is an important part of becoming and knowing who you are. Conquering fear, anxiety, and pre-conceived ideas can be a life-long process. Surfing is an inner struggle. Although you may be surfing with a pack of guys and gals who loved and adored the sport, ultimately, it is a competition within yourself. It takes persistence and passion. Boosting our inner strength takes a certain amount of trust, believing in yourself, and finding confidence. The belief in ourselves is important for our emotional growth. The balance of humility and trusting in our abilities provides us with better clarity and pride.
3. Paying attention: The present moment you’re in is the only place your mind should be. How often are we physically doing something, yet our mind is in another room? The heart of a surfer’s life is the connection between the stillness of their board beneath them and the sea that moves about them. This is the one constant in a world that changes minute by minute. Staying present in everything you do, gives you the greatest edge. The mind needs to be trained to focus on the current moment or it tends to drift. When you pay attention, you live life “in the moment.” It is the one place you can make a decisive decision.
4. Finding calm within the chaos: There will always be chaos within our lives. That’s just a given. But, how we chose to handle that chaos is our responsibility. When there is distraction and turmoil all around, you must go inward. Tune out the noise and pandemonium and focus on your breathing. Follow the rise and fall of your chest. Mastering your inner peace will allow you to handle any external chaos about you. This is a learned response and is something you can work on every day. Although we may not be able to control the environment around us, we can certainly control how we chose to deal with it.
5. Our moments of struggle define us: How we perceive something, how we approach something, or how we cope with a situation when we are in crisis, is what defines our actions. How much energy we give to something will determine its value. In surfing, we ask: “What are you paddling away from? What are you paddling towards?” The more energy we give to a situation, the more we allow it to define our beliefs. How much you allow something, whether it is good or bad, will define your choices.
6. Pain furthers our growth: Pain has one indelible truth: at some point it is inevitable. In order to overcome pain, you must find a solution as you allow it to pass over you like a wave. With physical pain, it is struggling and resisting that often makes it that much worse. With emotional pain, stuffing it further down in your mind or ignoring it, results in it manifesting as physical pain or hidden trauma. With both types of pain, you can find a solution by acknowledging the situation, exploring the process, and accepting its presence. The waves of hurt, grief, or sadness will pass over you in time and you will be given a new outlook. Learning how to cope with pain is an important part of knowing who we are and essential for defining how we move forward.
7. Your outlook on life will always depend on where you are standing. Don’t like the view? Change your perspective. Unhappy with where you are in your life? Find another road. Your outlook determines your path. Your path is determined by you. No one else. If you don’t believe it is, then you’re looking at it from the wrong vantage point. If you assign your happiness to external circumstances, you will never find the one thing we all deserve… joy in life.
8. The soup changes every day, just like life: The ocean changes every day. As with our day-to-day lives, you never know what to expect. Keeping an open mind and being flexible are two very important lessons the ocean has taught me. The minute you assume, expect, or anticipate what a situation could be like, is the moment you could be very disappointed. It’s better not to expect anything and your possibilities can be endless. Lowering your expectations can ultimately give you endless possibilities. No expectations, endless possibilities are words to live by.
9. Change is the Universal wake-up call: We often think that when drastic occurrences happen in our lives that it is a setback. Of course, there are two sides to this coin. It comes down to how you look at it. If you follow the positive path, it can be a real catalyst for change. Change is the one constant in life. When we look at our experiences from the past, we may realize that the hardest parts of our path are the transitions. Transitions are forks in the road which make us choose which direction to move in. These decisions usually force us to make a choice. Sometimes it will be the right choice and sometimes it won’t. Often times though, the “wrong choice” is not really wrong at all, it’s just a greater challenge than we expected or a different way of going about something.
10. There is no perfect time to do anything: No matter what point in your life you’ve reached, you can always find a reason not to do something. “I’m too old. I don’t have enough money. I don’t have enough time”, or any other deterrent we could find to derail a life. Our life is in constant flux. The water taught me that. It changes daily and if you keep saying you’ll do something eventually, the tide changes and so does the window of opportunity. So act on your dreams… starting today!