What I Learned from the Ocean

photoI just spent the most incredible week of my life in Nicaragua at a surf and yoga retreat. I suspected the trip would be healing but never anticipated that the ocean would teach me so much about myself and life itself.

Learning to surf for the first time was an incredibly humbling, challenging, and spiritual experience. The ocean is powerful. Surfing is complex. It is challenging yet oddly easy at the same time. The skill of balancing and joining forces with the wave’s energy was at times a frustrating and scary task. At one point, it even brought me to tears. The process of learning to surf challenged me to try, try, and try again. And then try some more. It taught me to push past my fears and self-doubt that were fighting to cloud my judgement. To push past those voices in my head that said “you can’t do this!”

In those moments where I rode the wave, it was absolutely magical. An experience of pure bliss and excitement.

Of course, I wasn’t alone out there in the ocean. I was blessed to be surrounded by a community of wonderful women. We all came together with different levels of experience and from all walks of life. Yet we all had one thing in common: the readiness to push ourselves to new limits. We learned from one another, got inspired by one another, and drew from one another’s experiences. We bore witness and brought compassion to the low moments and shared in the joy and excitement of the highs. We knew when to push ourselves and when to take a break or call it quits for the day. There was ample cheering when one of us made progress and  encouragement or a hug when frustration ran high. And of course laughter when those all too frequent “wipe-outs” happened-and we all had them, regardless of experience or skill. No matter what was happening, we always supported each other in an atmosphere of love and encouragement.

I quickly began to realize that riding the waves were much like riding the ups and downs of life. Like riding the rise and fall of our various emotions. There’s no hiding from a wave when it comes, it’s the ability to flow with it that must be exercised. At other times, patience must be practiced. Waiting for the “right” wave can be a time-consuming process and you must stay focused to see when the right wave is headed in your direction. A beautiful wave can appear just when you least expect it. Learning to read the waves is an incredible skill. It felt like an impossible task to be able to predict the pattern-especially for a beginner surfer like me. As the week progressed I found myself getting better and better at reading the waves. At knowing which ones to paddle for, which ones to float with, and which ones to brace myself for and hold on for dear life. At times the waves would leave me spinning and struggling to reach the surface, leaving me disoriented and panicked. At times I would be riding waves and would be up so high I would laugh in disbelief….and then quickly fall off the wave. At other times, I was moving in synch with the wave, allowing the incredible power to propel me to the shore. Bringing my soul to new heights.

The ocean reminded me that just as with the waves, in life, there will be ups and downs. They are inevitable and not always predictable. Our task in life is to move with the rhythm and breath of life rather than resist or fight it. Our mission is to learn how to go with the flow. To persevere, practice, and try again. To rest when we need it. And all the while, to do so in a community of love, support, and encouragement. To cheer for your friends and give them a hug when they need it.

Simply Healthy, Simply Strong.