After another stint of exotic, surf focused travel, I found myself slowly but surely veering back to the convenience of the self-destructive lifestyle. Luckily, I found a way to restore equilibrium to my unbalanced soul, and so can you.
Constantly attempting to live the proverbial dream can, for some, involve existing in a somewhat contrasting environment. I’m week five into a six week trip to Indonesia and I’ve just fallen backwards off the top of the boat from Nusa Lembongan to Lombok. As the laughter of my peers gave way to the muffled silence of my temporary underwater home I thought “Hmmm, maybe this sort of stuff shouldn’t keep happening”.
Up to this point I was using surfing and yoga to give me a licence to do whatever the fuck I wanted
I was using the wholesomeness of my morning meditation to justify the debauchery of the evening. I was reaching to God whilst dancing with The Devil. I really needed to find some balance.
In Yoga, we study the ancient Indian scriptures that are known as the Vedas. Another name for the Vedas is “Shruti”, which means “that which is heard”. The ancient sages heard these truths deep in their meditation. They didn’t read them or hear them from someone else, they simply heard them.
These Vedas discuss the gunas, the three forces or qualities in the World; rajas, tamas and sattva. Rajas in Sanskrit translates to “impure” or “passion”, basically meaning too much activity. Tamas translates to “darkness” essentially meaning dullness or inaction. Rajas and tamas are the extremes and sattva is the balance of them both, which translates to “whole” or “peace”. These gunas are part of the cosmic vibrations; action, inaction and serenity.
I’ve written about vibrations before in Wavelength (issue 249) and how everything is moved by this vibration, Einstein told us so remember. But our moods are changed by the gunas. Sometimes we are happy and wholesome, sometimes we are sad and bad, sometimes we are full of life, sometimes we want to do nothing and then occasionally we are at peace. It’s all the way the wind of the gunas blows on you.
We see this naturally happening every day if we open our eyes and observe. Have you ever seen how beautiful and serene the world seems at sunrise and sunset? Not too much action or inaction, then as the day breaks the rajas activity comes into play and on the flip side, as night falls, tamas shows its face.
But you know what, as humans with flaws (myself being rather rajas) I think it’s better to have a little of everything, something I’m still trying to master. Some balance. Normally if I’m a little too rajas, I’ll try to do something beautiful, something selfless, to balance out my gunas and bring me nearer to sattva. I was kidding myself into believing that I had some sort of balance when basically I was just veering from one extreme to the other, but we’re not always in the correct mental state to see how the wind is blowing.
“If you are moderate in eating, playing, sleeping, staying awake and avoiding extremes in everything you do, you will see that these (yoga) practices eliminate all your suffering.” – Baghavad Gita
In simpler language, Yoga is the middle path and it’s all about balance, moderation in everything and balance is the key to a serene, blissful life.
So that’s our lives sorted then, easy. Pretty important I think, but you know something way less important, yet very blissful that requires balance? Surfing. Without balance, there is no surfing. Literally. When you popup, release your fingers from the board and slide down the face of a wave on your feet, you require perfect balance. When Clay Marzo does unexplainable things on that left in Hawaii, the same rules apply; he needs perfect balance. It’s a crucial part of surfing, whatever your level.
Balance is described by physicians as postural equilibrium, which doesn’t sound so technical, but when you add in influences from the inner ear, eyesight and our general clumsiness or rigidness, it does get a bit messy in surfing terms, but I’ll try to explain balance in my own special way. There are two main variables; the centre of mass and the base of support. In surfing the centre of mass is the centre of your body. The base of support is the area of contact underneath your body, your surfboard. If your body (centre of mass) is in alignment over your board (base of support), then you are balanced. If the centre of mass is not over the base of support, the object will fall over.
So to summarise the key aspects of balance from a surfers perspective it’s pretty simple. Don’t look down, don’t look up, just look where you’re going, gaze the eyes level with the intended area you want to stick your board. Have a base of support big enough for your frame, don’t stick your ass out, don’t bend at the waist, just bend the knees and keep the body in balance with whatever the gravitational pull of the ocean is doing.
Finding balance whilst surfing is actually easier than it is in the real world. You get the chance to practice over and over again without judgement. Fall off, face plant, wiggle around, stick the butt out, it’s all fine. Just get back up and do it again until it clicks. But I think that we are onto something a little deeper with all this surfing, yoga and life jazz, that they are connected in ways we easily overlook and our lessons learnt in the ocean can be used in our lives.
For example when we are surrounded by a large base of support, whether that’s colleagues, friends or family and the closer you, your centre of mass is to this base of support, the easier it is to find balance. So maybe this is why when we aren’t connected to our base of support, things get a little wavy.
Bringing things back to my un-planned snorkelling excursion, as the excitement of eight day-time Bintangs quickly fades into a salty reality check, I’m hoisted back onto the boat by a wiry Indonesian who’s seen this shit a hundred times. There’s no revelation as such, but maybe it’s the un-phased look that makes me realise that this is fucking ridiculous. I’m clearly out of sync, I need to stop running from my base of support and I need to stop riding a proverbial 50ft wave, blindfolded on a skim board.
A day later, I’m ill. Like proper run down, my central nervous system is a mess, my reef cuts are really infected and I’m feeling sorry for myself. But I’m seeing more clearly now and I know that these symptoms are just the body’s signal telling me I need to restore balance, eliminate whatever is causing these blockages and reestablish a healthy flow of energy. But thanks to my sinewy boat friend I already knew this and am working on it.
A week later I’m back at home and a combination of meditation, good sleep, belly laughter, family time, cooking, surfing and simply slowing down has done wonders for the bullshit mental state and the pitiful physical state I brought upon myself. I’m feeling healthy and able to fully digest everything I take in; extracting nourishment from food, my relationships, my job and essentially beautiful day to day life experiences like walking to work, making coffee for my colleagues, stroking my cat etc.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that balance is crucial in all aspects of our lives and if you bring something into your life that disrupts the balance get rid of it. If it’s something you are doing to yourself, get the fuck over yourself. When we are in perfect balance on our surfboard, we can do whatever we want to a wave and when we are in an optimal state of balance physically and mentally, we naturally make choices that support this balance and life goes smoothly.
But you also have to remember that we are all alive. We don’t know what happens on the other side, or what happens to the eternal part of us and even if we do believe that we live forever in some sort of spiritual state, we might as well live our lives a little, make new experiences and enjoy them, make a peace treaty with our fears, have a couple of craft IPA’s with a rollie to top off the day, life’s a game so let’s play, just don’t take it too far.
Anyway, the deadline for this article was yesterday and currently heading to India to do a Vipassana course (ten day silent meditation), so I imagine I’ll have another tale for the next issue…
This article was originally published in Wavelength issue 251. Be the first to get our articles in print and online by subscribing here.