By James Wanless
Here I was in tsunami country, Japan, and as I walked along the corridor of the International Center where I was teaching, I noticed a large weaving on the wall whose warp and woof looked like ocean swells. My stomach, like a wave, rolled over and I felt nauseous anxiety. I still do even as I write this. For me, it's some kind of primal fear of facing a giant wave, maybe because I often body surf in the ocean. At a deep level, however, we all fear death by drowning, of being swept away into the endless vacant sea.
A tsunami is a terrifying metaphor for feeling overwhelmed and unprepared for some kind of disaster, whether it's going under financially or being crushed by a divorce or death. The question is, "how do we prepare for a calamity?"
We prepare, first, by not engaging in "catastrophic thinking," which I do sometimes in the middle of night waking up to the thought of no work and no paycheck. To do this, remember that everything in life, every phenomenon, every thought, every sensation, every event, every every has a vibration and is thus a wave. Life is one big, beyond-measure wave within waves within waves that are forever moving and changing, building, crashing and reforming. Like an adept surfer who adroitly negotiates the swells and chop, choose your wave to ride. You do not need to keep riding waves of worry, waves of anger, waves of hopelessness. You are not your thought-waves. Mindful of these waves fabricated by your mind, just get off the wave you don't like and find another that makes you feel good.
The art of surfing is a particularly appropriate 21st century skill because of the speed, complexity and uncertainty of life's incessant waves of change. Like a surfer, keep your mental and emotional balance, which can be enhanced by mindful meditation in which you learn to be aware of the waves of feelings, sensations and thoughts within you. With this awareness, you have the power to choose to get on or off any wave.
Managing your own wave-selection keeps you on your surfboard, which is your lifesaver. Tether yourself to the board by not going overboard with either paralytic fear or out of this world, ecstasy.
Surfing life, however, is not just playing it safe and finding only a few easy waves to ride. It's about jumping into the ocean of emotion and riding the big wave that turns you on and takes into the beach for a well-deserved cold one with loved ones. To sustain in this changing world, it takes energy. Once you've chosen your wave, let it take you. The universe, being one boffo wave of waves, will carry you and sustain you. This all translates into "do what you love and love what you do." That's your big wave.
To find your wave, keep riding waves and new waves. Wave riding gives you the imperative life-skills of discernment, balance, adapt-ability. and change-ability. Make riding waves a habit and then when you know your big wave you will be ready. This sustainable way of life transforms your worst tsunami nightmares into the most exhilarating, joyous and longest ride ever.
To sustain on, surf on.