There is a ton of excitement in the tight knit surfing community here on the northeast coast, with a Category 4 hurricane forecast to track well east of the US. This will produce large swells and a relatively rare opportunity for local enthusiasts to enjoy some tasty surf. In fact, a very good friend of mine is postponing his annual sojourn to Costa Rica in order to capitalize on this occurrence.
Several weeks ago he took me out on my very first surfing lesson. I’ve never felt less of an athlete, as I did on this afternoon. The more I pushed to stand up the further away I got from accomplishing this goal. My body was a taut mass of aggravation and I was actually getting worse on each subsequent attempt. My buddy, who is a rather accomplished surfer patiently explained to me that I would need to relax and let the ocean do the work if I wanted to get to my feet. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, I was able to briefly get to my feet.
To say this was a humbling experience would be akin to saying that Stephen King has published a few works of fiction. We here at 3F often talk about getting out of our comfort zones and doing something that makes us uneasy and well, this delivered on both accounts. However, as embarrassed as I was by my physical ineptitude, I was equally struck by a great sense of peace and recognition once I was able to get past my frustration and finally stand. A oneness with my environment began to develop once my ego and vanity subsided. I stopped fighting the current and let it go to work for me.
Afterwards, we sat outside and enjoyed a few Southern Tier IPA’s. He told me about a book, that an old surfer dude had referred him to years ago. It is called, Cloud Hidden Whereabouts Unknown by Allen Watts. He told me that it was an absolute must read, so I at my first opportunity Amazoned it. Watts takes a fascinating look at his retreat into the mountains of California and his discovery and following the watercourse way of nature, known in Chinese as the Tao.
Alan Watts helped create the Zen boom in America and which has become a popular theme with people seeking harmony with nature. Watts discussion of Taoism is particularly interesting. The Tao signifies the energy of the universe as a way, current, force, course or flow which is as at once intelligence and yet spontaneous, but you don’t worship or pray to the Tao, because it is your own true self, your very energy and patterning of your bones, muscles and nerves. Lao Tzu’s first statement about it is that it cannot be defined, for the simple reason that you cannot make what is basically you and basically real an object of knowledge. You can’t stand aside from it and examine it as something out there. Although then that we cannot define it, we must not assume that it is something bleary like the blind energy of 19th century scientists.
From our own point of view our heads themselves are blind spots but were it otherwise we should be looking at only neurons and dendrites and would never see mountains that meet the ocean. Of course when neurons and dendrites are seen from the inside they become mountains that meet the ocean.
Now, even though the Tao can’t be pinned down, it has a characteristic atmosphere that can be sensed in the lifestyles in people such as these surfing ethusiasts. It’s an ability to flow with or following with the wind or in this case waves. The whole object is generating immense energy by going with your environment. By following the gravity of the water and making yourself one with it. By applying this principle we learn the senselessness of trying to force ourselves upstream. Flow with the waves, it’s another way of saying chill out…get rid of tension and rigidity, bend with the wind and you’ll still be around after the hurricane is gone and the fair weather returns. It’s like the principles of judo, which uses the power and force of your aggressor to defeat him. He makes the move, you simply channel him using his own force and momentum to easily cause him to sprawl in the dirt.,
This idea can be applied to our troubles, our worries, surfing and situations that at first seem threatening and impossible, but which can if we flow with the storm, be turned into our advantage. A person with this kind of attitude and philosophy cannot be defeated. Even after he fails to stand up after dozens of attempts. He knows that he is a part of everything else, the very energy of the universe and that he can best live and achieve whatever ends he decides upon by going with the current. With ease and serenity never with tension, never with force or strain.
May the Th3rdforce be with you.