What is surfing?
To a surfer the question may seem ridiculous and redundant. All surfers know what surfing is! They spend their lives doing it. This is a silly question!
Or is it? Do all surfers know that their passion has the potential to transform the world?
From my point of view you don’t even need to be a surfer to understand the secrets behind surfing. All you need is an open mind. A mind unafraid of being emptied.
With some help it is easy to understand why surfing can change the world. If we are prepared to look beyond the obvious.
Surfing is the embodiment of ancient teachings that have been at the heart of all spiritual enlightenment since time immemorial. These spiritual teachings are as applicable now as they always have been. Therefore surfing can help you to discover the illusive secrets to happiness and peace.
So what is Surfing?
Surfing is the utilization of natural forces to do something that goes beyond plain survival.
Surfing is therefore the expression of creativity. It is a form of Art.
The essence of the art of surfing (like all other art forms) is balance between opposing elements or forces of nature. Like a painter must maintain a fine balance between light and dark to express his creativity a surfer must maintain a fine balance between the opposing forces of gravity and the energy of an unbroken wave.
A peaceful existence is also a form of art. It is called the Art of Happiness.
The Art of Happiness is A Way of Being by balancing opposing forces. Life and death. Joy and suffering. The one pulls you up and the other pushes you down. Like the energy of the wave battling it out against gravity for control of the surfer, so “good” and “bad” feelings battle against one another for control of us.
Everyday, no matter what we do, some things make us feel good and others make us feel bad.
Trying to be happy and at peace while dominated and controlled by your feelings is like trying to surf without achieving balance between gravity and the energy of the wave. It is not possible.
You can choose to continue letting different feelings dominate you in an endless cycle of pleasure and pain. But your happiness will be temporary and superficial unless you practice the Art of Happiness and find peace. Just like your ride will be short unless you practice the art of surfing.
It is only with absolutely perfect balance between up and down that you can ever hope to ride a barrel.
A surfer riding in the barrel of a wave is the symbolic epitome of the peace that exists in the balance between opposite feelings. There is no longer joy or suffering but simply peace. This is true Happiness.
How is this possible?
We are aware of what we experience. This awareness generates feelings. We have given names to different feelings, but they can all be divided into two categories. Some of them “good” and others “bad”, like pleasure and pain, joy and suffering.
We all know that “good” and “bad” feelings cannot last forever. They change. Constantly. No human can escape this. Even people who we consider to have ‘perfect lives’ must deal with this. Even a world champion can die a completely unforeseen and unexpected death.
The secret to happiness starts with understanding that our distorted world culture, to which we all contribute, goes out of its way to hide the truth.
We believe that experiences that make us feel “good” are indeed good and that they should be pursued. We are taught that “bad” experiences are indeed bad and that they should be avoided.
We come to believe that a “successful” life is one that is filled with “good” feelings. We therefore seek out good feelings only, and fill our life with as many of them as possible.
We believe that “bad” feelings are equal to failure and we avoid them at all costs. Men are taught never to cry and women are only “allowed” to cry because they are (mistakenly) perceived to be weak.
The truth is that we all inevitably experience both “good” and “bad.” All men cry, only some hide it. Just like all surfers pee in their wetsuits, only some lie about it.
Our culture does not (WE do not) teach us (ourselves) the truth.
A successful life is not one that is filled with “good” feelings only, this is not possible. A successful life is one with both “good” and “bad” feelings. What makes a life successful is the presence of peace. The secret to true happiness.
How do you find peace in the balance between opposite feelings?
Experiences only feel “good” and “bad” to us, but they are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. The truth is that feelings say nothing about experience and everything about us.
It is like saying that boiling water is “hot.” If this is so, how should we describe the surface of the sun? Very hot? It doesn’t quite describe what thousands of degrees Celsius would do to you, does it? The word “hot” says nothing about the boiling water and everything about our awareness when we experience boiling water.
The death of a person is an experience just like the blossoming of a flower. Neither “good” nor “bad” they simply happen.
We cannot control experience. We can only label it.
When we talk about death, the label “sad” really point to ourselves. It is misleading to say that the death of a family member is a “sad” experience. We are the ones that are sad, not the experience. The experience simply is what it is. It happens and is not under our control.
Feelings do not describe experience. These “labels” only describe us.
You are not your experience. Experience happens to you.
You are Awareness Of Experience.
The labels we give to experiences (feelings) therefore actually describe our Awareness Of Experience.
This is how surfing can can teach you the secret to being truly happy and at peace:
Most people simply say “my life”, but “your life” is actually a combination of two very different things: Experience AND Awareness Of Experience. Another way of putting this is: You are Awareness. Life is Experience. Therefore Your & Life IS ALSO Awareness & Experience.
Experience is like a wave. Unpredictable and not under your control. Therefore it should not upset you.
When you surf you cannot afford to worry about the wave. You cannot afford to let the wave upset and disturb you. You must simply surf the wave.
The Art of Surfing and the Art of Happiness is very similar in this regard.
In surfing a successful surfer controls only that which they can control: their weight distribution. They maintain balance between gravity and wave energy. This makes them successful because the wave does not control them. They have the freedom to express their creativity. They are free to surf and enjoy the wave.
In life a successful person controls only that which they can control: their Awareness Of Experience. They always remember (are aware) that feelings are temporary, whether good or bad. They are thus in balance between “good” and “bad” feelings. This makes them successful because experience does not control them. They have the freedom to always express their creativity. They do not try to control their experience. They are free to live life.
They can solve problems when they experience something “bad” and they can enjoy something “good” without being afraid that the experience may end soon.
“How am I supposed to be happy when a person dies?” or “How am I supposed to be happy when my car is written off or my surfboard snaps in half?”
You are not supposed to be happy because of these things. You are supposed to be at peace regardless of these things. Being at peace regardless of what happens is the only way to true happiness.
If you focus on your Awareness, not on your Experience, you can contemplate your experience instead of blaming your experience. Ask yourself: “What can I learn from this?” Instead of screaming: “I really don’t want to deal with this!”
Surfing and living have much in common. We practice both in pursuit of balance. Peace. Happiness.
If you focus on your surfing you can learn from your mistakes. If you blame the wave for not being perfect, your surfing will likely never improve.
Getting pissed of because a wave did not allow you to do what you wanted to do defeats the purpose of surfing. We must learn the Art of Surfing from waves, not blame them for not being what we want them to be.
If you blame life (your experience) for not being perfect your life will likely never improve, you will never be truly happy.
Getting pissed off because your experience does not allow you to do what you want to do defeats the purpose of life. We must learn the Art of Happiness from our experiences, not blame our experiences for not being what we want it to be.
In surfing you will struggle to improve until you find perfect balance between gravity and wave energy. When you do find that perfect balance you will be free to express your creativity. Your surfing will be unrecognisable and you will be on a level usually reserved for world champions.
In life you will struggle to be happy or at peace until you find balance between opposite feelings. You will make the same mistakes over and over again if you (your awareness) are dominated by your feelings. You can only learn from mistakes by separating your awareness from your experience.
Ultimately separating your awareness from your experience brings balance. You will be unrecognisable as a person and on a level usually reserved for Masters and Gurus.
Remember that all feelings are temporary.
Happiness is not a feeling. It is a way of being. True happiness is not temporary.
Happiness is the Peace that exists within your awareness when you stop trying to change your experience.
Surfing is not just a sport. It is a way of being. Surfing is the peace that exists between you and nature when you do not fight against nature.
Surf the wave do not try to change it.
This is perfect balance.
Enjoy these selected photos from our recent December 2010 Surf Camp in Stillbay. Click here for the full collection!
Text: Hermann Vivier
Photo: Jenya Zhivaleva