My dad always says, “life comes in waves, Georgia—sometimes you’re surfing, sometimes you’re floating, sometimes you’re being rolled, praying to come up for air.”
The past two years I’ve spent this week in April in Costa Rica on a yoga and surf retreat. I love the yoga part, practicing under a palapa roof, the monkey-filled jungle, and the fresh mangos (I don’t even mind the critters in my tent)…but truth be told, I hate the surfing part. I have long fantasized about being a surfer. Seriously, what’s cooler than a mom that surfs? But it’s not just the coolness factor I crave; it’s the deep connection to the universe that I know takes over when riding a wave. My surfer friends describe it as “tapping in.”
I’ve had brief surfing moments of tapping in, standing up on my board, and riding the white water, but the moment of transcendence evaporates as soon as I go under, and my body (and LONG board) are tossed and turned over and over. As I churn, there is nothing but darkness and I can only hear my thoughts: ‘Please don’t hit the reef. Where is my board- is it going to hit my head? I need to breathe!’ When I do finally pop up, there’s no time for gratitude. Instead, it’s a rush to get back up on my board and position my body just so to paddle to the safety of the channel. I think of myself as strong, but by the time I get to the channel, my body and breath are so tense and tight, I have a headache, and I’m exhausted.
My surfing friends welcome me to the reprieve of the channel; they cheer for waves caught, laugh, smile, and fist pump. I wonder how they can be having such a different experience? The sun is out, the water is just right, and I’m floating alongside them, but I feel like a prisoner. I am afraid to paddle to shore and navigate the breaking surf on the reef, and I am afraid to paddle out and catch another wave. So instead, I float, congratulating myself for getting out there, and praying I’ll make it back to the beach unharmed. My heart pounds as I float in purgatory, wondering why the hell I keep coming on this retreat, and watching in awe as my surfer friends tap in again and again.
I don’t know if I’ll ever tap in on a surf board but the experiences of trying are ones I’m happy to carry with me. I may not be in Costa Rica this year but I’m certainly riding the waves of life. Surfing in my everyday existence equates to feeling connected to others and the natural world, and to feeling full of possibility, love, and hope; floating is being still—being present as I wait for direction; and rolling (or getting rolled) is all the hard and scary stuff that throws me down like death, failure, rejection, pain, and fear. Together the three phases make up the whole human experience—no phase can be avoided nor held onto. All we can do is enjoy the ride, be patient in the lulls, and trust we will pop back up when we’re down.
When I do get back to Costa Rica and find myself on another long board, I hope to surrender to the waves. Maybe I can change those underwater thoughts: ‘This too shall pass. I’m ok. Relax. Listen to the quiet.’ Maybe I can get to the channel a little less tense, without a headache and relish the reprieve instead of worrying about whether I am going to paddle in or out. And maybe next time I get up and ride a wave in, I can fall off with a fist pump!
This spring I’ll be teaching 3 workshops entitled The Heart and Gut Series at 3 of my favorite yoga studios: South Boston Yoga on Sunday May 5 from 2-4pm, Boston Yoga Union on Sunday May 19 from 2-4pm and Treetop Yoga on Sunday June 2 from 2-4pm. Come explore when to listen to our hearts and when to ground down in our guts on our mat.
I’ve also got two retreats coming up. Blue Light is going Glamping in Maine June 6-9and I'm co-leading a very special retreat with Katy Smith Abbott for mothers of daughters in Vermont November 14-17. Check out the flyers below.
Thanks for reading...all the way to end.