I watch my daughter battle the Pacific surf and lose, swallowed by a giant wave. The ocean here on Mexico’s west coast is a turbulent, tempestuous thing. Unlike its East coast cousin, this water is dark and moody. It changes temperature on a whim, large swells rolling in without warning.
As a very young child, I remember my mother explaining that an undertow happened when the current on the water’s surface moved in a different direction than the current underneath the surface. She would slather my brother and me in zinc oxide and then shoo us away from her blanket, reminding us to, “watch out for the undertow.” But what I heard was, “watch out for the undertoad.” My young mind conjured a gigantic toad-like monster that lived in the ocean depths, biding his time until some unsuspecting child waded in too deeply. I imagined how quickly I might be pulled into the dark depths, the sounds my breaking bones would make when he gobbled me up.
As an adult, I am no longer scared of the ocean. But I do respect her great power. When I took surfing lessons, I learned that you couldn’t battle a wave and expect to win. The more rigid you hold yourself, the easier it becomes to knock you down like a bowling pin. Even worse is turning your back on the surf; you only get blindsided. You must completely submit to the waves instead by duck diving. Duck diving is diving straight into those enormous swells that would otherwise sweep you off you feet (or wash your surfboard backwards as you attempt to paddle out).
Duck diving is a great life skill. Life is too often like those monstrous waves, challenges arriving seemingly out of nowhere and throwing us for a loop until we’re left with a mouthful of sand and a mistrust of the ocean. We must instead plunge straight into our fears, tests, and pains if we are not to drown. It might leave us disorientated or destabilized, but we will not be overwhelmed or swallowed up by that terrible undertoad.
Our highest self seeks those waves, sometimes unconsciously. The human experience requires a certain amount of trial and tribulation to evolve into the best version of us. Yet knowing that the waves make us stronger doesn’t stop us from feeling scared, frustrated, or victimized when they crash over our heads. It’s human nature to duck our heads, trying to ignore the oncoming torrent, rather than duck dive straight into the terrifying surge.
But life demands action on our part. We are co-creators with the universe and are thus responsible for doing our part in facing the flood. So surfing life’s waves instead of letting the waves overcome us is a three-step process.
Firstly, we acknowledge the challenge or fear. Sometimes we turn our back on the wave, pretending it isn’t happening, but will unconsciously steel ourselves against it anyway. Sometimes just recognizing that the wave is coming makes it less scary.
Then we take a deep breath as it approaches and duck dive straight into the torrent, facing our Goliath even as our knees shake and our heart beat accelerates. We have to simply yield to the powers greater than us, trusting that going with the flow is an easier ride than fighting against the onslaught.
Finally, we let go and let life flow around us, detaching from the outcome of our efforts. This is actually harder than diving in. If we place our energy on the dive and not the result, the scariest parts of the challenge fall away. Some waves are enormous and overwhelming, but if we stay present and faithful, no challenge is too big to meet with grace and trust.