For a long time, I’ve wanted to learn how to surf. I just got back from the amazing Harmony House Yoga Fest in Pismo beach and had a few opportunities to get in the water with some seasoned surfers, which I resisted fiercely because of the cold temperatures. I also spent the month of October in Sydney, staying with a good friend of mine, Matt Marks, who’s a killer surfer, and despite my initial resolve to get my surf on during this, my sixth visit to the magical land of Oz, it didn’t happen.
There’s one tiny little detail I should mention, which is that the first time I gave wave riding a proper attempt, I nearly drowned. I was on a little California road trip adventure with a friend of mine about eight years ago and we decided to get surf lessons at Mission Beach in San Diego.
Day one was spent mostly on the sand and in the “shallow end” of the ocean learning to get up on the board and surfing the end of the wave. We both did well and our very laid-back surf instructor decided on day two that we were ready to go for the real thing. It took nearly all our energy and stamina to swim out past the break with our boards. I was the weakest swimmer of the group and so I was the last one out.
In the blink of an eye and a slight turn of my board toward the shore, I found myself a sitting duck at the mercy of a big wave that I had no choice but to try to catch. My board went nose first and the wave crashed over me and I was buried under water for what felt like an eternity. I panicked, which caused me to lose my breath more quickly. I kept reaching for the surface but the wave kept coming. I’d be lying if I said that my life flashed before my eyes because I was way too busy – trying get my head above water and breathe – to be taking a stroll down memory lane.
Maybe I wasn’t as close to drowning as I thought but when I eventually found the surface, my instructor told me he thought they’d lost me. Very comforting coming from the person who was meant to safely ease us in to the fun world of surfing. The rest of the day was spent back in the shallow end, which was all I could muster after that somewhat traumatizing experience, and I’ve mostly avoided surfing since.
There’s something else I’ve been wanting to do for a long time which I’ve begun working on over the past little while.
I want to write a B-O-O-K.
Even just saying the word feels kind of daunting.
Now I know what some of you may be thinking. I write all the time and a book should be a piece of cake for me.
That makes good sense but here’s the thing… Up until now, I have fairly casually slipped into my writing shoes as a blogger without my inner artist becoming too self-conscious or aware enough to make it feel like a Big Deal. Now all of sudden, the tides have turned and my desire to write toward a more lofty target feels like a whole lotta pressure and it’s scary as hell.
As I drift back to images of the beachfront on the northern shores of Sydney, I am instantly present to the similarity between writing and surfing. On most days, there would be many regulars in the water making the monumental task I fear so greatly look very easy. And yet, I know that none of them dove in, raced past the break and landed on a wave on their first try.
There’s a process. There are smaller steps and necessary experiences between the sand and the surf and if I’m ever going to enjoy that blissful state that I’ve heard so many a surfer and song allude to, I have to start from right where I am.
You can’t get from the beach to the wave without getting your feet wet first and overcoming that initially uncomfortable sensation of the cold water.
Not to mention paddling out and probably eating a few waves and being humbled by Mother Ocean a few times before anything resembling surfing is possible. One who disregards the process and who just rushes into the eye of the big blue to catch a wave will quickly learn that it doesn’t work that way. Trust me, I know.
The same goes for writing, for all creative expression and for any new endeavor we wish to take on. When we go for too much too soon, when we set our sights on the Big Prize, we can easily get overwhelmed, discouraged and find ourselves in way over our heads. When we don’t honor the process and take it slow, our inspiration, our desire to grow, and our creative spark can quickly drown in the sea of uncertainty that our inner censor, our changing moods, our limiting beliefs and our inner demons subject us to. Not to mention the learning curve and challenges that come with the territory of taking on anything new, especially in adulthood when it’s so much more difficult for us to allow ourselves to be beginners.
So instead of going down that path, I am suggesting a saner and safer approach.
For me, that has involved a simple commitment to daily writing and a willingness to surrender to the process, allowing it to reveal to me as it unfolds what it is exactly that I’m writing. In the end, perhaps I’ll come away from it all with nothing more than a clear head, a deeper sense of connection to my creative voice and a direction forward.
That doesn’t sound too bad. And as I sit here and roll with the flow of this current wave of words, I am reminded of the fact that I’ve been in the water before. In fact, I’m a much better swimmer now than ever before and the challenge of catching a wave is actually an exciting one when I look at it from that perspective.
When all is said and done, what will matter most is that we lived fully and enjoyed ourselves in the process, flexing new muscles and stretching whenever our desires lead us to new experiences. All there is to do is show up for each step and embrace it fully until eventually, the next step is the one we were yearning for all along. And even then, there will always be something or somewhere else to get to.
And so it is with writing. After all, a book is really just a series of short essays, which are really just a series of paragraphs which are really just a series of sentences made up of words. Now that’s a context I can work with. It’s about the process and as far as the result goes, we can make a dent by working with small, bite-sized goals.
Start from where you are. Allow yourself to be a beginner. Take it slow and honor the process.
One thing is very clear to me in all of this:
We are what our hearts desire. We just have to follow our hearts patiently and persistently to fully realize our potential.
I want to surf so I must be a surfer. I have the desire to write so I am a writer.
If you want to paint then you’re a painter. If you want to roller skate, then you’re a skater. If you want to sing then you’re a singer. If you want to create, then you’re an artist. The only catch is that in order to know ourselves as that which we desire, to fully experience it, we have to act on those desires.
What are you?
What are you going to do about it?
Published by The Daily Love (Nov. 24th, 2013)