Wisdom of the Waves (part 1)

I was raised next to the Pacific Ocean. I grew up a “surfer girl,” and a musician, listening to the Beach Boys, who grew up in the same place. 

Most of my friends were surfers and/or musicians. We lived in the sunshine, frolicked in the ocean, ate hotdogs and fries on the Redondo pier, and spent the entire summer wearing bikinis under our cut-off-jeans and knotted tees so we could, in a moments notice, land at the beach.

Granted, it was a pretty idyllic setting, but like all teenagers, we grappled with relationships, struggled to grok unfamiliar emotions, pushed the limits of our new-found freedom (got in trouble quite a bit for it), and wondered if we would ever find our true place in the world. And yeah, there were times when we thought we never would, times when hearts were broken, times when epic failure challenged our self-respect, but creating music brought our lives purpose, and the ocean brought our lives peace. 

Looking back, I see that we were the lucky ones, but one thing I have come to understand since those sweet, fun, turbulent years, is that each of us is born to a quest. We must all find that which brings us purpose and that which brings us peace. Those two things together can heal our hearts, soothe our souls, and guide our course through the darkest nights and the scariest storms. They can provide a touchstone for all that goes on in life, a ‘true north’ we can return to again and again when seas get rough. 

I learned early on in life that emotion is a lot like the ocean, and learning to surf its waves is an essential element to achieving happiness.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a surfer or not (I never actually got on a board myself—I’ll tell you that story in Part 2), ‘the wisdom of the waves’ can help you deal with the complexities of emotion at any age, and see you through many of life’s difficulties and hardships along the way. 

It goes like this…

Sometimes it’s just a swell. Emotion can rise within you but if you stay on top of it, keep seated on your board, keep balanced and confident, you can just let it pass and go on about your day.

Other times you have to let it crest, rise to the occasion and let it take you all the way to the shore. Sometimes you have to acquiesce to its power, but if you stay on top of it, you can ride that emotion all the way home, and let it crash all around you, knowing it will eventually fizzle out. 

And yes, there are times when it takes you down. When all you can do is hold your breath and crash with it. It will tumble you about and feel like it’s beating you up. It will even feel angry or malicious at times, but if you can managed to relax into the process, not fight it, let it take you, and have faith that it will pass, you stand a good chance of coming out just fine.

Resistance is the enemy of healing.

The key to a great life is getting out in front of the wave, allowing it to move you to great heights and even dynamic depths while embracing—and eventually enjoying—the ride. 

If you choose to ride that wave no matter what form it takes, and have fun while you do it, evoking joy in the process, life can become a celebration instead of a burden. 

This is not easy to achieve, but like learning to surf, it’s all about going through the motions again and again until things become second nature. It’s about falling off and getting back on, and never viewing the process as a series of failures, but rather, a series of important steps on the way to success. 

I know that everything seems hyper real and depressingly dark when anger, fear, doubt, depression, and the like, tumble and toss you like a lint-ball in a dryer, but when it comes right down to it, they are all just waves in the emotion ocean. 

I had a friend who always said, “Emotion equals energy in motion.” That’s what the ocean is as well. Energy in motion.

I will be the first to admit that this is not an easy shift to make, but I promise, it is worth the effort. 

It’s also important to note that when surfers wipe out, they can get pretty knocked around throughout the process before the wave spits them out onto the shore, but the one thing they never do is judge the ocean. They don’t blame it for beating them up. They don’t assume that the ocean is angry at them and is doing it on purpose. They don’t argue with the ocean to prove they are right and the ocean is wrong. They just allow the ocean to be what it is, get back up on their board, go back out, and catch another wave.

We all have the ability to live our lives like that and make peace with our inner oceans and storms.

Yes, sometimes there are sharks in the water, and the dangers can become very real, but that doesn’t stop surfers from getting back out on the board and finding joy in the ride. “Life is meant to be fun!” That is the secret wisdom of surfers. No matter how hard it is to learn to surf, they know, beyond all doubt, that surfing is meant to be fun, not to mention, a transformative experience! That is their end goal, and they never take their eyes off of the prize. 

And neither should you.

When life knocks you down, never stop believing in the peace of mind that awaits you on the other side. Set your sights on that, and ride the wave to shore. 

In Part 2, coming next week, I will tell you how I could be raised a ‘surfer girl’ but never learned surf. I was going to include it here, but in the telling of the tale I realized it deserved its own blog post. In Part 3 of Wisdom of the Waves, I will tell you why I still feel like a surfer inside, and how I truly know what it’s like to catch a wave, no surfboard required. ツ

Elayne Gineve James is the author of The Secret Half & The Saint of Carrington. Visit ElayneJames.com for more info & other fun stuff.

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