Into the Wild Unknown: 3 Life Lessons from Surfing

Jenlesons, surfingLeave a Comment

The ocean is fascinating. I love watching her swallow the warmth from the sun’s fiery glow and feeling the salty breeze revive my spirit as the pounding waves rattle my bones. From the beach, this serene sanctuary feels like the elusive Eden I would travel to the end of the earth to find. And then it’s time to get in. Sweaty palms, body stiff and resisting every crashing wave… it looks SO easy for everyone else to find the joy and playfulness of this place, but it is SUCH an effort for me to calm myself down and relax into this wild unknown. I’ve lived by the Pacific ocean for almost 20 years and although this is still an uncomfortable exercise, I’m finally learning how to surf. Playing in the sand and lingering in the knee deep whitewash can be fun, but I’ve had a taste of what it feels like to dance on a wave and the memories of this salty soul immersion keep calling me back for more. I could spend an hour counting the deep lessons surfing is teaching me, but for now, here are the top 3…

Real life is messy, wild and full of unknowns

I spent a great deal of my life identifying as a person who loves throwing conventional ways to the wind. I reveled in new experiences, places and things as they felt exciting and alive. However after having 2 little kids, I started to see shadowy tendencies of my Virgo moonsign taking the helm. Life is full of unknowns. As I experienced the acute pain that sometimes accompanies the vulnerability of being a parent, I found myself playing it safe WAY more often and clinging to the security of fun, but controlled scenarios where things wouldn’t get too “wild”. In a misguided effort to control all the uncontrollables, I was simultaneously losing all the essence that makes life, life. Learning to surf is helping me to let go and find a rhythm of cooperation with this wild, powerful energy instead of trying to contain it or avoid it all together. I’ve always loved that Mary Oliver quote, “Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?” It can feel really scary to leave the relative safety of the beach, but when I ride back in after dancing with this mysterious, marine magic, that salty stoke is literally oozing from every cell of my being and I know this is what it feels like to be alive.

The way I relate to fear while I’m feeling scared changes everything

When I first go into the ocean, I often feel overwhelmed by the power of it. I worry I will be held under and unable to breathe. I worry that I will be swept away in currents and drown. I even worry I’ll be one of those extremely rare people who get bitten by a shark. I worry I’ll be hit by other surfers or worse yet get in their way… and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… the list can go on indefinitely. Basically these are the strong fight, flight or freeze emotional responses that kick into high gear when I’m afraid. What I’m learning however is that when I have those initial physiological responses (rapid heart rate, shallow breathing, etc.) I can insert a conscious pause and work with the feelings that are triggered by this experience. By naming the feelings and using specific tools to stay present and in my body I’m able to support myself more effectively and actually experience the whole scenario differently. I’m experiencing the playfulness of this experiential approach and literally witnessing the freedom that happens when our magical brains rewire themselves through repetitive practice.

I’m way more resilient and brave than my mind tells me I am

Mental fitness is a real thing. I’ve always loved the Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think ‘You can’ or ‘You can’t’, you’re right.” It never ceases to amaze me how much our thoughts create our reality. I always wanted to be one of those people I saw out there having fun and being totally at ease in the ocean but because of the thought train I mentioned previously, it always felt out of reach. That was until I spent a week learning to surf in Costa Rica with our friends at the Bodhi Surf lodge. I was genuinely scared, but at the same time, I was willing to accept the dare that perhaps I could be one of those people too. I had many profound moments during that week, but the awareness that still gives me chills is that, despite all the conditioning to do otherwise, I had fun. Like belly laughing, double rainbows everywhere, how is life this magical kind of fun. In being DAREful and taking the risks even though I was scared, I realized that deep inside of that locked down, fearful heart was a joyful mermaid just waiting to be free. She’s still revealing her full potential to me, but as I let go of the old stories and beliefs that have blocked me from experiencing her, I’m kind of wowed by what is underneath!

So yes, it’s a journey that is still very much in process. The water is a LOT colder in San Diego than it was in Costa Rica, but the lessons are still feeling really alive for me. As I paddle out in my thick wetsuit, I’m counting down the days until we return to the Bodhi lodge.

Want to learn more?

If you’re curious to learn more about the Be DAREful retreat we’re crafting in Costa Rica this April, please click the button below for more details! In the meantime, I wish you blessings of ease as you lean into that wild edge and feel the Grace available to you as you surrender to the adventure unfolding.

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