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Learning to Surf: One Yogi's Humbling and Illuminating Experience

Today's blog comes to you from Chief Drishti Blog Content Creator, Chantal Peterson. We love Chanti for her big beautiful heart, and her many talents: writing, modeling, massage therapy, and world travel. We hope you find this piece an inspiration - we did!

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learning to surf 1When in tune with a wave, the ride is an ecstatic gift from the Divine.

And when out of tune... well, many would say that is a gift from the Divine as well.

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At one point during my first season of winter swell in Santa Barbara, an old-school surfer guy offered up a piece of advice. Since then, over the past couple of years during which I've been learning to surf, I've reflected on this advice many times. We were sitting out on the water on our longboards, waiting for the next set to come through. He watched me wipe out more than once this session already, and offered a few tips about navigating this particular wave. After thanking him, I said something about the humbling challenges and breakthroughs that surfing was offering me. He replied, "It doesn't get harder to learn new things as you get older, it just gets harder to be bad at them."

I chuckled because it seemed to me to be exactly what I needed to hear at that moment as I fumbled and fumed, cursing myself for being too slow, too distracted, and too weak to be a good surfer. Despite many people telling me that it takes the average person about 3 years to really get comfortable with surfing, I was very impatient with myself. Why did I expect this of myself? And why was I so discouraged when I wasn't achieving my idealized goals for myself?

I realized a few things from this inquiry: 1) I hadn't actually set out to learn something entirely new and challenging for quite some time. 2) Surfing is much more than just a physical sport. It is indeed quite physically challenging, but it is even more so mentally, emotionally and, yes, spiritually challenging. And 3) I really was better at being bad at things when I was a kid.

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I think my surfer friend's point was that the ego tends to get stronger and more pronounced as we age. If we aren't careful, as we grow older we tend to become more set in our ways, and more attached to our perceived "identity." This includes how we think about what we can or can't do, and what we are, or are not good at.

Surfing has reminded me that the things we do are always, at their core, great opportunities to learn about ourselves. Learning new things gives us information about the way we react to aversion, challenge, and failure and. It shows us our capacity for perseverance and belief in ourselves. Learning something new can be a great mirror. In learning to surf, I discovered there were some things I hadn't taken an honest look at in some time.

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I also realized this was the perfect opportunity to apply the lessons I had learned in my 10 years of yoga experience. This was a chance to take those lessons off the mat, and into a new chapter of learning to surf. The ability to focus, stay calm, and breathe deeply and evenly have been invaluable. Balance and core muscle strength are super important in both yoga and surfing. Those little muscles in the ankles and hips that I trained for so long in yoga are cruicial now in helping me stay on my board.

What I have gained by continually showing up and saying YES to the fears and frustrations that sometimes come up while surfing is understanding. I have gainedthe understanding that those pains are temporary and the pleasure and confidence derived from learning something new and challenging is much, much longer lasting. Surfing is helping me flex new muscles, physically and mentally. Even more importantly, it is showing me a whole new world of sublime pleasure that comes from tuning in and surrendering with grace to an incredibly powerful force of nature.

When in tune with a wave, the ride is an ecstatic gift from the Divine. And when out of tune... well, many would say that is a gift from the Divine as well ;)

By Chantal Peterson
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