Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Life Lessons from Walking on Water

No, I'm not Jesus, and I don't have access to any anti-gravity technology; all I did was rent a stand up paddleboard (SUP).

A SUP is basically an old longboard with 3 fins instead of one for stabillity. You propel yourself and steer with a paddle -- think Venetian gondolier. It feels a lot like walking on water, because there you are, standing up, moving slowly (or not), on the surface of the water. You have time to relax, to look around, to notice your surroundings -- and you see a lot farther than you do boogie boarding (which is what I usually do), because your eyes are five feet or so higher out of the water. Because I had time to contemplate, I noticed that it's a great metaphor for life:
  • Stay relaxed - Relaxation allows flexibility, allows you to roll with whatever comes your way. If you lock your knees (or any other part of you), it's asking to fall off the board.
  • Keep your eyes on the horizon - If you steer for a point on the horizon, you'll automatically correct for things that are closer in, like the waves, or the kelp forest. It's like holding a vision or a goal, and dealing with whatever comes up along the way. If you look at your feet, splash! If you look way up, splash!
  • Don't look behind you - You can look right or left, but not back. Even if a sound indicates something cool is happening behind you, don't look back, or -- splash! It's the quickest way to become unbalanced. (Satchel Paige said "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you." He was right.)
  • Stay centered - Where you stand in relation to the center of the SUP matters A LOT. If you're at all ahead of the center point, the nose goes down and -- splash! If you get too much behind the center point, the heel goes down and -- splash!
  • Pace yourself - You can stand, kneel, sit or lie on a SUP -- and all of them have their place. When you're heading out through breaking waves, you want to be kneeling and paddling in that position. When you're comfortable, or if you want to ride a wave, that's the time to stand. When you're tired, you can sit or lie down. If the waves get rough, you want to lie down and hang on. No position is 'the best'; different positions are more appropriate for different situations.
  • Have a sense of humor - No matter what you do, sometimes a wave will come up out of nowhere and knock you flat on your ass. Splash! That's life -- ya gotta laugh -- it's all you can do.
  • Standing has it's pluses and minuses - To me, standing upright on two legs is one of the essential traits of being human. And now that I can do it on the water, I see that it has pluses and minuses. The plus: you can see more. The minus: the animals are more intimidated, and won't just hang out within 10 feet or so of you -- they stay 15 or 20 feet away. Really, anything, any attitude, any posture, has its pluses and minuses.
  • You can't see everything -- at least not all at the same time - Even though I can see more standing on my SUP than I can down on my boogie board, I'm still limited -- I can't see anything very far under the surface. In the same way, I can't see the energetic processes that support the physical world. (Well, okay, I can see them sometimes, but it takes a lot of focus, which I can't do while I'm dealing with a lot in the physical world, like balancing on my SUP, or a flat tire, or a big audience.)

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