Monday, February 18, 2008

Surfing the Now

Several years ago, my brother-in-law, born and raised Californian that he is, took me surfing. Although I was only minimally successful in that one outing, there were moments that have stayed with me. More than once, I was able to rise to my knees, let my hands go and--maintaining a precarious balance point--let the wave carry me. It was exhilarating!

I never repeated that experience in the Pacific. The surfing I do these days is of another kind. I meditate. In the metaphor that’s unfolding here, my usual mix of ruminations, reveries, and emotional reactions is the ocean, my technique the surfboard. That thrilling moment, though, when I really GET IT and am lifted beyond the confines of my everyday self to be carried by--and into--something so vast, feels similar.

Yeah, ya don’t often hear meditation described as thrilling, do ya? Perhaps that’s not the right word. Perhaps enlivening or vivifying would work better. Both mean ‘to give life to’, and that seems to better capture the feel of what I’m trying to convey, the aliveness of those moments. Life, however, has already been given me, has been animating me since birth; during these few precious moments I am seeking to describe, I simply recognize it. When I allow myself these flashes of true perception--perception of what is true--the veil lifts and I feel Spirit with an immediacy unavailable to me while caught in the illusions of everyday life.

I’ve often wondered if the joy I experience at such moments comes from the fact that they are still so rare. If I ever managed to live within that awareness, would the glory of it somehow lessen? I don’t think so. In fact, I am certain that my current peak experiences are but a dim reflection of an immensity beyond my ability to fathom, let alone inhabit fully at this time. One day, perhaps, my balance might improve, ultimately making the board itself superfluous. Perhaps I could then live calmly upon, and ultimately within, the sea of change. But, the joy lessen? I doubt it. I suspect it would only grow deeper. But here we are in the realm of pure speculation. That time, if indeed it ever arrives, is far away.

Now, just as my Pacific balance was precarious, so, too, is my meditative one-- although this is where the metaphor begins to unravel. When I fell off my borrowed surfboard, I knew it immediately. When I tip out of my absorption in Spirit and plunge back into the salty water of my usual self, it can be many seconds and, alas, sometimes minutes before I realize I’ve wiped out. Then it’s time to simply grab my board and climb upon it once again.

After meditating for years, I’m more accepting of the inevitability of this process. I even realize that it’s beneficial. You see, each time I climb back on the board, I reassert my commitment to greater consciousness. And I get much needed practice. I find that, with all the training I’m getting in my meditations, reorienting myself in my day-to-day life is becoming easier and I’m doing so more quickly. That is, of course, the goal of any meditation practice--to become more conscious in every moment and better able to live in greater harmony with all that is--and to do it, not only on a cushion, but within the very stuff of our own small lives.

There’s the rub! It seems infinitely harder to do in the stuff of our lives than while meditating. You see, I finish this entry after a major wipe out. My husband and I have just finished a 2-hour argument, a particularly maddening one as we’ve had it several times before. You know, one of those arguments that seem oh-so-familiar, though the specific details are changed. You believed you’d learned the lessons, fixed the difficulties, come to a workable understanding--only to find yourself embroiled yet again.

I was off my board many times, feeling lost to the turbulent seas. I was at times furious, disappointed, judgmental, hurt, sarcastic, dismissive, weary, self-righteous. Certainly not my finest hour or two! I never totally forgot the board, though, or gave up trying to scramble back on it. I even succeeded a few times, only to tip out of balance, plunge back beneath the roiling waters, surfboard a-flyin’. But I did continue to try, as did he, and that counts for something. For everything, actually.

We are now back to a good place, feeling resolved, having distilled valuable lessons from the experience. True, I’m not feeling the ecstasy I wrote about above, not exactly feeling vivified! But I am feeling in harmony once more--not only with my husband, but with this challenging process of being--of becoming--conscious. It is a worthy endeavor, indeed.

Well, these last few paragraphs almost didn’t make it into this final draft--at first because they hadn’t happened yet, but then because I was a bit unsure of their appropriateness. Would I seem too self-disclosing, airing dirty laundry before strangers who don’t care to see?

It was not embarrassment that nearly held me back, nor is it a penchant for public exposure that leads me to include it. I am invariably taken aback when a client asks, in all seriousness, if I’m always as calm and together as I seem in session. I never hesitate to answer them truthfully, albeit far more succinctly than I did here. We each need to know that none of us does this thing called life without stumbling hugely and often. Not their serene psychotherapist, not the person who articulates moments of joy as the veil lifts and Spirit fills her. We each err with dependable frequency, though our specific methods of doing so stem from the particulars of our own lives, personalities, and souls. Such is our lot as humans.

May your surfing be vivifying this day and enlivening in all your days to come! And if ya can’t quite get there--or remain there--on a given day, that’s okay, too. Truly! Welcome the learning that comes through the difficulties, and revel in the moments of recognition and joy. And no matter how seemingly slow the pace of your own growth, give yourself a hearty pat on the back for grabbing for the board, again and again.

No matter how wet you find yourself this day or any day, namaste!

Loanne Marie

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