Surfing Our Emotions

As much as I meditate, seek to communicate consciously, and strive for balance and wellness in my life, I’m still human and my emotions swallowed me up like a big wave over the past couple of months – tumbling in the churning swirl as I sought to get more solid footing and figure out which way was up.

And I know I’m not alone. Even before the pandemic, in the United States we were having a mental health crisis – with almost half of adults experiencing a mental illness during their lifetime. And there’s evidence that mental health challenges have increased during the pandemic, including symptoms of anxiety, depression, initiation of or increase in substance use, and suicidal ideation. Clients, friends, and family are relaying similar tales as we struggle to deal with the stress that surrounds us.

The waves of this year have just kept coming. Some of them passing through more easily, and some of them knocking us over.

One interesting thing about waves is that while it may be chaotic at the surface, usually if you go deep enough there is calm. And this is where I found my personal peace – letting go of the swirl at the surface, grounding in the quiet stillness of the vast and deep ocean, I saw the direction that I needed to go to get to the light at the surface.

And so I learned that while you can’t stop the waves, you can learn to surf.

As I watch the amazing surfers here in Southern California, I see how they observe the waves – watching how they peak and then decline, looking for when the ocean is flat and glassy and when the waves build up into a strong set. They wait out the waves until they are ready to ride it out.

Sure, they get tumbled sometimes when a big wave comes. But then they pop back up and paddle back out to wait again for the next wave. It’s quite inspiring.

So the next time a big emotional wave comes, I’m going to surf the wave – ride it or wait it out. And if I get tumbled again, I’ll seek the stillness underneath the chaos of the waves where calmly I can look for the way out.


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