I’d been having a really difficult time not too long ago. I found myself on the end of an incredibly stressful and traumatic year; so much so, the stress, trauma and resulting anxiety and depression had started manifesting itself physically in the form of debilitating sciatica and piriformis syndrome. The setbacks and heartache I experienced had made me feel like a failure in every capacity. I internalized what I felt was happening to me and around me, believing it must be a consequence of who I am.
Over the course of ten days, I learned how to love myself again. I learned how to truly let go, how to embrace my failures as lessons and see them as opportunities for growth, find my focus, and reconnect to my body and spirit in a way I had never done before. Here are 10 things I learned about life through my first surf camp, and in one way or another I think they all made me a better person.
1. You’re better than you think you are. We all experience times when we feel completely insecure within ourselves. When circumstances in life don’t go the way we hope or plan we often allow them to make us think less of ourselves. We end up with a false sense of insecurity in our own talents and abilities. Surfing allowed me to focus in on a natural ability, on a passion and accomplish a long-desired goal. By creating experience continuous growth. Throughout the week, I was reminded by those surrounding me all the positive qualities about myself I just couldn’t see until then. And within just over a week, my confidence was back – I truly am better than I think I am, which brings me to my next point…
2.Change the story you tell yourself and let the negative shit go. We are all in charge of our own story. Sure, we have experiences and relationships that have molded us into who we are today, but does that mean I am destined to stay that person? No. I create my own narrative, so if I can say such horrible things to myself and feel victimized by others, why can’t I take those same stories by the horns and change the way I view myself, the world etc.? Like anything, it takes practice to improve, but the importance is in starting, in taking the first step. And that somewhere for me happened to be at Playa Hermosa in San Juan del Sur, on a surfboard in the Pacific Ocean.
3. Everyone has his or her own battles. We all struggle. We all have our own scale of what makes us happy and sad, what we hold dear to our heart, and the time it takes to let something go. But everyone, and I do mean everyone, has a battle they are fighting internally. There were times during the trip when inevitably one of us would be triggered. But instead of internalizing it or talking shit, as is the norm at home, we would allow them the space to work through it without judgment.
4. Everyone has the same battles. The other people on this trip and I will be bonded for life. We may not talk every day, but we connected on a deeper level than I would have expected from a surf camp. I always felt like no one understood the depth of my pain or depression. I thought I was the only one who experienced such intense emotions that spun my mind into obsessive thoughts, not allowing me to move on in a pre-determined timeframe. I thought something was seriously wrong with me. I kept wondering why I had relationship issues, or I couldn’t get over the death of my dog, or I just couldn’t feel joy or passion anymore. As it turns out, more often than not, those around you experience those same toxic thoughts. But when you surround yourself with similar minds and hearts, open dialogue without judgment and a bonding, freeing activity, miracles can happen and the healing can begin.
5. You can find a tribe. And when you do, love them hard. For me, it was as easy as signing up for a 10-day surf and yoga retreat. When you immerse yourself in something you love, you’ll fin like-minded individuals that you can relate to. Individuals who understand and support you. We rooted for each other every day – be it each wave one of us caught, to our early morning yoga sessions, to our group therapy moments. We congratulate each other on good rides, on catching green waves on our own, on being able to go left and right. We high five each other after every surf session and kept the stoke long into the night. There was nothing but love from everyone, something I’ve not experienced too much thus far in life. Surfers have a stereotype of being happy, joyful, friendly and sincere, and that stereotype didn’t disappoint. We bonded instantly and became a family overnight.
6. Flow. Just go with it. Surfing is all about letting go and flowing with the ocean. To be in a state of flow, one must be fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus. This means being fully involved. Surfing allowed me to get out of my head and into a state of bliss. Time falls away. Surfing is meditation in motion and it has elevated me in every way since returning home: from my career to side projects, to finding my creativity again, reviving old relationships, and extending effort in new ones.
7. Joy (stoke) is real. The ocean offers healing in so many ways. Not only did the salt water help heal my sciatica, but the meditative state that occurs while sitting out on your board staring at the vastness of the ocean, waiting for a set to roll in, I was able to be truly present. Surfers must be attuned to the vibration of the ocean and be in the moment. What really affected me was the feeling of connectedness. The ocean has the power to make you feel connected to forces much greater than yourself. Wave sets are created by storms or earthquakes out somewhere in the middle of the ocean. Those waves traveled immense distances when you finally get the opportunity to ride it. Being connected to nature, to the world and to the pull of the moon, there is no greater joy for me. Understanding my place in the world and feeling that connectedness to it, I was able to get back into my own body and spirit. And with that comes joy. The freedom to just be and ride the forces of nature. The ego stops its chatter and the active meditative qualities of surfing take over the conscious and unconscious parts of my mind, simultaneously. And at the end of every session, all I could feel was euphoric stoke.
8. It’s never too late. One of my stories I’ve told myself is that “I’m too old for…insert anything here as an excuse’” but the truth of the matter is it’s never too late to start something you’re passionate about. You don’t know what you are capable of until you start, and more times than not you will be more successful than you think. We are all capable of doing incredible things and we are all capable of living the life we desire, it’s just that many of us don’t take the first step. This surf camp taught me to shut off the mindless chatter and to start following my intuition and desire, regardless of my years clocked so far on earth.
9. Make love a habit. I fell in love with surfing the first time I tried it. When I am surfing I feel only love. Love for the ocean, love for the environment, love for the beautiful and miraculous world we live in, love for my fellow surfers, and love for myself. I learned love, like anything else, can become a habit and a lifestyle.
10. Change your relationship with failure. Failure is an opportunity to improve. Not every wave is going to be perfect, and not every surf session will be amazing. But if you get frustrated and see it as a negative, you’ll give up and that frustration will inevitably lead to negative feelings with regards to surfing or anything else in life. No one ever improved miraculously overnight. Improvement comes through hard work, focus, and dedication. There were times I hit the wave wrong, got locked into the washing machine, and came up seconds later gasping for air just pleased that I found the right way up to swim. All that did was strengthen my resolve to get back out there and hit the next wave, smarter and more focused. Centered. Change the word ‘failure’ with ‘opportunity’ or ‘lesson’ and watch what happens. Every day (and every wave) is a chance to be better than you were the day (or wave) before.