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Running across the sea is similar to surfing the wave of emotions. It feels impossible, but it is indeed possible. The power of the ocean can seem as formidable as our emotions. They are magnificent as well as ‘unfathomable and ungraspable like the ocean waves.’
Blissfully dancing above the waves
We cease to worry about everything.
Dancing on the edges of the walls of water.
We fall away into the vast expanse of clear limitless space.
The pounding surf, with the gleaming black seal like figures just hanging out there poised to glide in, waiting for the perfect wave, the spectacular ride. In action, they look like they are running on top of the crests of those ethereal, yet substantial swells. Hot sunshine or freezing rain, whatever the weather they are always there. Akin to the meditative state, staying in the zone of the ever present moment, one pointed focus, yet at the same time, floating in the vastness of the ocean, pausing suspended, waiting, totally relaxed. The sense of change and impermanence is sharp out there, hanging out in the blue distant yonder, yet with anticipation building.
The changing light, shapes and ripples of the waves, the direction of the wind, the chance encounter with a pod of dolphins and a giant whale with her young calf, frolicking suddenly close by. The rhythms of the tides and the play of the turquoise green crystal clear water dancing and reflecting in the dazzling sunlight.
But here’s the truth. Some of us just don’t get it! Originally being an English gal living for years on the Northern beaches of Sydney, it’s still way, way outside my comfort zone and over my edge. I never really understood how to get a wet suit on and off with even a touch of elegance or how to stand up on a narrow piece of fiberglass while the whole world rocked up and down. Paddling and paddling until you feel your arms are going to fall off and then realizing you are only 10 metres from the shore. Facing a wall of water and having to duck under each wave as it roars white terrifying foam at you. Yes, waves are just water but if you don’t duck at exactly the right moment, you are blended in the washing machine motion and unceremoniously dumped somewhere on the dark unforgiving bottom of the sea floor. Or swallowing galleons of salt water while being held down under by the incredible immense power. Being stung by bluebottles, injured on hidden rocks, eaten by a shark or death by drowning! It just somehow never clicked for me.
However, talk to me about surfing the wave of emotions and I’m all yours. Now that’s something that needs courage. Understanding and learning how to ‘read the wave’ of exactly how you are feeling, the subtle undertones reflecting like different coloured lights hitting the surface of the water. Identifying what has triggered the mood state and being able to track it like a life saver detecting rips and dangers before trouble brews.
Surfing is a lot like life. Sometimes you feel like you miss the big wave and that could be a good thing even though you don’t realize it at the time! Sometimes life dumps you and it hurts, so letting go of a big one every now and then may save you pain. What looks like what is an exhilarating ride might just be a trigger to a lot of suffering. How many times have we felt devastated when the person we fall in love with doesn’t feel the same way towards us, only to discover later that we had had a lucky escape!
Jung said, “Emotion is the chief source of all becoming conscious.” Discovering deeply about our emotions and how they move inside of us and knowing all the features of their different ebbs and flows is no simple task and yet, it can be one of the most worthwhile adventures that we embark upon. Like the waves, no two emotions are alike. We discover how to focus and deal with the present wave and not get caught in thinking of a past emotion that was similarly painful. We can learn to understand what direction the wave of emotion is flowing towards and not paddle against the flow. We slowly trust ourselves how to be safe in a big ocean or know what to do when we are caught in a rip of strong feelings. This all contributes to help us not bob around in the stuckness of our habitual patterns, but fluidly balance in the centre of our awareness.
When big waves come, we get scared, tense and often panic because it is unexpected and takes us by surprise. One minute we are feeling fine and then it sweeps our breath away. Something triggers us and we instantly forget everything we have learnt and get ‘dumped’ by the wave. We may not want to get back into the water of life to try again and yet, sometimes the waves just keep coming! If we get ‘dumped’ too many times by our emotions, we can give up, feel powerless and believe that nothing will ever change.
How to ride the wave of anger, when it roars up inside of us, sometimes so quickly we forget how to breathe. Our thoughts and emotions are stormy and choppy and we get thrown around and lose our awareness. It is very real and we totally believe the story. How to choose not to catch the wave of depression as it tries to sink us down into the depths of despair and hopelessness. Or to learn the smallest signal that forecasts the arrival of lightning strikes of anxiety so that we can skillfully avoid that particular upsurge of churning in our belly. We discover how to breathe deeply as we face the oncoming storm of a panic attack and to calm our mind.
We can also explore the subtle nuances in each emotion and become skilled in recognizing that our feelings are an essential part of our wellbeing and have meaning and messages for us in our inner and outer life. The process and journey itself is as important as the result. Jung said that the seed to the solution is contained within the symptom. In other words, if we get rid of our emotions too quickly, we lose the very information held within them, that we need.
We each have a choice whether to step into the ocean, but our moods? They take us over without so much of an invitation. They hang around much longer than the last light, as it fades across the sky reflecting the beauty of the set of waves, continuously rolling in. Its exciting to be more friendly and skillful with our emotions as we step out of our old ways, like the surfer emerging from the glistening sea, gleaming, happy and contented.
‘It is easy to believe that we are each waves and forget we are also the ocean.’ Jon J. Muth
by Sherry Marshall. Sydney CBD and Northern Beaches Process Therapist and Relationships Counsellor