Photo: Emily Long
I love the ocean and have always wanted to learn how to surf, so earlier this year I signed up to go to Costa Rica with an organization called Women’s Quest. Going by myself on a women’s surf retreat was definitely a leap for me, since I am a bit of a control freak and an introvert.
Although excited, I was also worried about using my vacation time and money to go on a trip where everything was already planned and organized. How would we fill the time? Would I have fun? What will the accommodations be like? I had an idea in my mind of how I would have liked things to go, but as the week progressed I began to release my rigid expectations. With this surrender and opening up to what life had to offer me I was presented with opportunities and experiences far better than what I could have ever imagined.
Everyday while learning to surf, I not only improved on my board, but I also learned valuable lessons that would translate to my life on land. A beautiful lesson I learned was about non-resistance and going with the flow. When I would hurry and try to manipulate the surfboard into doing what I wanted, I fell every time. But when I breathed calmly and let the wave pick me up and guide me, I rode all the way into the beach. Just like in life when I try to force and push and pull things to happen, I usually end up frustrated and confused. However, if I just go with the flow and do not resist what life has to offer, things fall into place and all is harmonious.
I also learned a big lesson about fear during my surfing adventures. Being from Colorado and not knowing much about the ocean, I have a great fear of sharks. However, when I am surfing I am so consumed with trying to remember all of the things I need to do to get up and stay up, I don’t even have time to think about sharks. I am fully present, and with that comes the quieting of fears. I know that the chances of a shark attacking me are very slim, but it seems so real when I put so much energy into constantly thinking about it. What I realized is that in life most of the things we are afraid of are illusions, and hardly ever happen in reality. If we stay focused in the present moment, then we don’t think about these fears, which tends to be a huge waste of time anyway. Every time I got out of the water I realized I had not even thought about sharks, and I had an amazing time in the waves.
I finally realized that I could find balance on and off the board and achieve this clarity I feel in the water in my regular, everyday life. I now had the courage to face fears that challenge me in my career and my relationships, like not being good enough, being alone, or making the wrong choice. I felt empowered to tackle these illusions head on when I got home.
My favorite moment of the trip was when my surf instructor had us kneel on the sand and close our eyes before our morning session. With the warm sun on my back we blessed the water, jungle, animals, food, people and the group while giving gratitude for our lives and the amazing week. At that moment I understood the Costa Rican phrase “Pura Vida”, meaning “pure life!”