Learning to Surf
With mindfulness, we are learning to observe in a new way, with balance and a powerful disidentification. We can begin to sense and observe the changing mind, body, and heart the way a meteorologist observes changes in the weather: ‘‘It’s cloudy, the barometer is high, the temperature is eighty degrees, and the wind is from the southwest’’—not ‘‘Oh, I hope it doesn’t rain today. I wish it were sunny like yesterday. It’s too warm, and the humidity is awful.’’We simply notice what is occurring. We must learn that an essential characteristic of observing is acceptance. As we practice and watch, we begin to see that the mind can accommodate everything and that there is no need to struggle against ourselves. Thoughts come, feelings come, sensations in the body come—we simply watch, without judgment, without clinging or fear, but rather with a feeling of accommodating warmth and friendship with ourselves.
There is a poster of Swami Satchidananda wearing a loincloth and standing in a yoga posture called the tree pose, with one leg up and his hands over his head. He is balanced there on one foot. This is nothing very unusual—except he is in this pose balanced on a surfboard riding down a very large wave. Underneath it says in big letters, ‘‘You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.’’ This is meditation. It’s true, we cannot stop the waves of change; they are the very fabric of our lives. Yet we can learn to surf, to be aware, to balance. Then our lives are no longer based on fear, and the state of balance itself becomes a way of living with beauty and ease.