Denial and avoidance are human. I mean are we not often dragged kicking and screaming by well-meaning parents, loved ones or friends to what soon becomes some of our greatest joys in life?

Ride that first wave, the real one or any of the metaphorical one, with your heart open just like we strive to experience each yoga practice and fly like a bird on the wings of the wind. The lessons that come from surfing are extraordinary and ongoing right off the bat. One must learn to deal with being aware, being present, and being spontaneous. Paying attention is really key in a liquid world fraught with distractions. Actually paying attention is key in any world, just more so in a liquid one where any loss of focus or concentration, even for an instant, usually results in a wipeout.

In the old days, before they had surf leashes, that usually meant a long swim after your board and time to reflect on how you messed up but riding a wave is an absolutely spontaneous endeavor and this is because each wave is very much like a snowflake: uniquely individual and all is just a little bit different from any other. Of course, it is good to have a plan of action: clearly defined goals are always good to have in mind. It’s been said we should know where we are going so we will know if we get there, but in most cases when we look back once we are there, wherever there is, we realize that it was a journey that really held much more than the actual there. Getting there is bigger than the there. Being human, however, we always make plans and set goals but all those well-laid plans and goals go right out the window when the wave comes and hopefully we are attentive enough to see it coming.

So we see this wave, we make a conscious decision that we are going to catch it and we kick in this supremely physical explosive effort towards accomplishing that goal; and depending on our experience, our equipment, our physical condition, the timing, good fortune, the other surfers in the water, a myriad of other factors, we may actually catch the wave if we manage to pop to our feet the right place on the board, the right place on the wave. I can tell you for sure that all of this is always a big surprise; then and only then do we have a chance to ride this wave: the effort years lock and everything else that went into that lead up to this moment are actually quite staggering. It is, however, all the work and frustration of getting to this point where the real value is found.

I may not have gone where I intended to go but I ended up where I needed to be: learning to surf is a never-ending process endlessly frustrating as well no matter how long you do it or even how skilled you become at it. Here you might say: “why do it then?”. Well, there is a greater and more valuable lesson about expectation.

Expectations are a part of every breath we take. We just take it for granted that our lungs are going to continue to pump, our hearts continue to beat, and when those expectations are not fulfilled we usually suffer a little disappointment, so expectations have a bit of arrogance about them and can hold us back from learning. It’s better to be open-minded and humble. There’s an aphorism that served me well in surfing and in life: “it is always easier to ride the horse in the direction it is going”. There is another one that says: “follow the instructions and take what you get today”.

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