Learning to Surf

Learning to Surf

G has recently joined surf 🏄‍♂️ academy - a program for kids aimed at building confidence in the ocean 🌊. It’s an excellent class run by Dean Gladstone, who is peerless in terms of knowledge, spirit, passion and kid-friendly fun. As a Sydney kid growing up on the beaches, this knowledge is fundamental to survival.

Now in case you haven’t been to the beach lately, the surf has been no joke - thanks to an epic bluebottle season and cyclonic winds up north.

Not one to take risks, or exert himself beyond his physical comfort zone, I watched G paddle way into the depths of a very choppy North Bondi, further than I’ve ever been brave enough to swim to.

At the end of the lesson, he stormed up the beach, like a little seal in his wet suit, furiously pulled off his goggles, threw them in the sand, screamed “he tried to murder me!” and started a monologue about how it was the worst day of his life.

Two days later we were back at the beach and he was playing and bodysurfing the waves with a confidence I’d never seen in him before.

And this is what the mind does.

The “chitta”, or mind, is essentially like the ocean. Vast, and deep and full of life. All the best sea creatures lie in the deepest, darkest depths. Like the miraculous bioluminescent creatures that create their own light, not depending on any external source to give them their luminosity. But most of us are too afraid of the dark to dive that deep, so we swim on the surface. This is where our thoughts or “vrittis” move around like waves. Just like the ocean, sometimes the surf is big and a shitshow of chaos. Other days it’s small and manageable. We spend most of our lives thinking we are the waves, we are our thoughts. We spend all our time getting caught up in them. Sometimes we surf with joy and ease, even a little fear can be exhilarating. But other times- we get dumped and pulled under and drown in the madness of the mind, and it feels like, as G so aptly said, it may kill us.

Just like the ocean, according to yoga, the waves of the mind will always be there, in the form of our thoughts.

It’s our job to get a bit of separation from them through practice, and become familiar with the crazy patterns of the mind in order to recognize we are not the waves. If we can see them, if we can observe them, then we cannot also be them.

We are not our thoughts.

We are the ocean. Vast and deep and connected to everyone and everything else in universe we inhabit. The more we connect to that part of ourselves, that is the citta, the expansive mind, the part that is not subject to change, the more we understand who and what we truly are.

Beyond the waves.

Because the waves will always come and go.

But the sea, it is always there.

When we spend more time connecting to that part of ourselves, then, and only then, will we be able to ride the waves, no matter the weather.

We will dive deep and swim far.

We may still get dumped and pummeled.

We may even get carried away by the currents.

But we will never, ever, feel lost at sea.

Because we cannot be lost - when we are home.

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