Hand-In-Hand: How Surfing and Meditation Bring Me to the Present Moment

"Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment." -Alan Watts

“Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment.” -Alan Watts. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

I recently went to a meditation class in Santa Monica. To give some back story, I’ll tell you that I am generally a very anxious person. I suffer panic attacks from time to time, but this time I decided to do something about it. In my recent episodes with anxiety, I’ve found that the feelings I get come from either one of two obsessions I have: the past or the future. My past, which holds a handful of traumatic events, brings me back to the state of mind I had when my life was chaos. The future, on the other hand, taunts me with the possibility that history can and will repeat itself. Either way, my energy is spent on something less important than the present life I am living. I think a lot of us tend to feel like we’re out of control when we realize that the past and the future are both just out of reach. But we’re forgetting that the one thing we actually can control has been conveniently placed in the present moment that we hold in the palm of our hand. To me, the present moment is not the uncontrollable circumstances around me, but the tangible thought of how I am going to choose to respond to them.

In the meditation class I attended, we were taught about mindfulness with an emphasis on bodily awareness. During our sits, the instructor had us close our eyes and remain silent as she brought our attention to each individual aspect of our body: top of the head, forehead, ears, nose, chin, neck, shoulders, spine, and so on. For me, this total awareness of self is a successful way of distracting myself from my normal distractions. As an anxious American, that is my best way of explaining the peace I feel when I meditate.

Much like surfing, meditation takes me far away from the world as I know it. When I surf, I am almost exclusively aware of the body of water around me, not in the sense that I am running from my worries, but that they are just becoming less prominent in my mind. As I meditate, I am able to disconnect myself from the world, becoming fully aware of my physical body. It’s as if I am reduced to my soul; and my soul is introducing itself to the body around it for the first time, acquainting itself with every limb and feature.

With such strong focus on the different parts of me that make up a whole being, a being that can only interact with the present moment, I am unable to allow any external idea into my mind. When you let yourself become aware of and consumed by the very moment you are in, then there is no room for the chaos that normally captivates your thoughts. In my opinion, there is no better way to achieve full awareness than by communicating with your present body.

While surfing, it’s a sort of fear that causes you to become more concerned about the present moment, because when you enter the waves, you submit your sense of control to the force around you, allowing it to sink to the ocean floor. Whether or not you are conditioned enough to be able to direct your experience surfing, you are always in awe of the power of the ocean, and this puts your existence into perspective.

In another sense, while mindfully meditating, you possess a sense of fear in that you have a heightened sense of respect for yourself and the moment you’re in. You focus on your body and allow yourself to appreciate the simplicity of breathing and other normal bodily sensations.

To me, surfing and meditation are very much the same, because they are two peaceful activities that can bring me into a place of humility, awareness, and appreciation for the life I live.

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Alexandra is an avid thinker, unrelentlessly intrigued by reading, writing, talking and learning philosophy. She values knowledge through experience and believes that true virtue is earned by seeking knowledge through self-discipline, awareness, and patience. Throughout life, determining truth within her spectrum of beliefs has been a prominent goal, and this is reflected in her writing personality. Alexandra first fell in love with the ocean during a group paddle-boarding session on her eighteenth birthday, and her desire to abide in the Ocean increased every time she picked up a surfboard that summer. Since then, she is only anxious when she is forced by life to take a break from surfing, but through writing, she is able to keep a strong connection with the waves and those who surf them.

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