Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Cold Sessions and Freedom

I went out for a session on Saturday. It was cloudy and windy, with an air temperature of no more than sixty degrees and water temperature of 58. Quite cold. Waves were maybe two feet and it was mid-tide, dumping on the inside and mushing on the outside. I was out for almost two hours and caught one decent wave. Frozen to the bone when I finally paddled in. Not a very memorable session. The next day, yesterday, I felt completely done in and could hardly keep my eyes open. I had a sinus headache that made me feel nauseous when I stood up too abruptly, and I found myself obsessing over thermoreactive, thermosensitive microbes living in my nose and activated by my cold session.
I was dissatisfied with most of the things in my life and yet, as usual, unwilling to think about change. Then it occurred to me that change is one path to spiritual growth, if looked at in the following manner:
When our circumstances change, we necessarily change also. A new job brings new scenery, new co-workers, new worries and preoccupations, new goals, new definitions of success. Since we identify our “self” with the thought-streams in our minds, our narratives, a new job can make us feel as though, in many ways, we have become a different person. And this difference, this new relationship with oneself, can perhaps in a small way free us from the tragic meta-narrative of some essential, ego-driven “self” that must be preserved throughout our lives only to die in the end and be utterly lost.

I thought about all the vacations I’d taken, all the times when I had to make some big move in my life, and those times, in retrospect, have a kind of glow about then. It’s when I felt most “alive.” Maybe that’s because, in those times when my internal narrative had changed I was free from the burden of self by virtue of the fact that my ego had not yet appropriated and integrated this new narrative. Of course, in my instance, the changing of my internal narrative is always accompanied, at least in the beginning, by fear. But when the fear subsides, there is freedom. Perhaps that explains the saying, “Go fearward to go forward.”
It’s that way in surfing, too. The longer you surf, the more you begin to secretly long for the big, gnarly, dangerous days, the kind of days when you think to yourself that there’s no way you can possibly paddle out, and that there’s no way you can make those drops. But you do it. You hurl yourself into the waves that scare you, and come out exhilarated, free. Or, you don’t, and you paddle in later full of regret.


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