Zen and the art of surfing

Zen and the art of surfing

I find surfing a wonderful metaphor for life.

Surfing requires balance, agility, speed and courage. You can’t control the ocean or enforce your will on the waves. Success comes through adaption. And so too does life.

Lao-Tzu the great Taoist sage wrote “What is malleable is always superior over that which is immovable. This is the principle of controlling things by going along with them, of mastery through adaption.”

In Zen practice one is taught not to try to do anything, to surrender, to just be with what is happening in the moment, to let the present wash over you. The key to success is not to blindly throw yourself into every situation simply to prove that you can.

When the next wave is beyond our skill we must allow it to pass. What purpose does attempting such a wave serve, only to have the force of it hit us, hold us down and drag us along? We have to fight to reach the surface, struggle to breathe and expel a great deal of energy just to get back to our starting point in the line up.

Yet that is what so many people do in life. They believe they can impose their will on the uncontrollable, hold back the ocean or control the power of the waves. This only serves to waste energy and put us in the wrong place so that when the perfect wave does come, we miss it.

This doesn’t mean we should stay only within our comfort zone. We need to challenge ourselves by taking waves that test our skill, allow us to grow and provide a magnificent ride. Professional surfers achieve success as much through wave selection as surfing skill.

Once you have assessed the situation and decided to go for it then you need to be totally committed.. Confidence in your ability and reliance on you past experience will help you take the drop. If you hesitate or question your ability you will surely fall.

It’s best to catch the wave just as it’s setting up, when there’s enough incline to catch it, but before it goes concave. In the take off, and throughout the entire ride, the surfer, like the Zen student, must constantly find the middle way.

But once you’re beyond a certain point, there is no turning back. Hesitation can make things far worse than commitment. And to anyone who has looked down the face of a big wave, that commitment is impressive. Success requires the surfer to perform, as in Zen and life, instinctively with full focus and commitment, and without hesitation.

We must have faith in our ability. If we do, we’re up and away.  Our thoughts impact our performance. A good take off causes a chain reaction of proper technique and flow, so influences the dynamics of the entire ride.

In Zen the philosophy is simple:

The body moves naturally, automatically, unconsciously, without any intervention or awareness. But if we begin to use our faculty of reasoning our reactions become slow and hesitant.

In 16th century samurai training:

Try not to localise the mind anywhere, but let it fill up the whole body, let it flow throughout the totality of your being. When this happens no time or energy will go to waste.

 We can apply these concepts to our life for a transformative effect.

Transform your awareness to discover your own natural style. It’s a direct, simple, intuitive approach to life. This leads to a place where you can be fully present in the moment. This is where success is found.

When you release yourself and relax things change. The steep sections that previously seemed impassable, you suddenly pass. You feel where the wave is going and keep your eye on where you want to be.

Enjoy the ride.


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4 Responses to “Zen and the art of surfing”

  1. paulhassing Says:

    Good on you, WLB2! Sound advice, cleverly presented and beautifully written. Looking forward to the next wave! Best regards, P. 🙂

  2. greg gutierrez Says:

    Pick up a copy of Greg Gutierrez’s Zen and the Art of Surfing. It’s not bad.

  3. Mike Biagiotti Says:

    Great article! After reading it I want to share with you my 2 minute video- “The Trickster”, Gratitude and the Zen of Surfing.

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