Surf Therapy in the time of Covid

I sat looking at thirteen faces on the screen, aglow and all eager to go to the beach and participate in a Surf Therapy session. So, employing the most powerful organ we have, I took them there.

Using mindfulness and guided visualization techniques we drove to the beach, got out of our cars, carefully crossed the bike path and wiggled our toes into the warm sand. Loved ones surrounded the athletes as they made their way to our tents on the shoreline. We explored and experienced how the sun felt on their shoulders, the sea breeze on their faces and the sounds of the waves and the sea gulls crying. They met our staff and the warm and friendly smiles that awaited them. Eyes closed I could see them grinning back at me on the screen anxious and excited to catch waves, virtually. But first we needed to practice our pop up. I had them open their eyes, clear out some space around them and physically get down on the floor. The athletes envisioned being on a surfboard of any color or pattern they so choose. I demoed a pop up getting to my feet and then encouraged them to do so. The screen fluttered with activity as everyone of them popped up to their feet and into a stance. They were breathless with anticipation and the exercise of doing a few pop ups.

I settled them down into a sitting position and mindfully brought them back to the beach, they could hear the waves crashing and envisioned a perfect day of warm water, slight breezes and excellent conditions for them to ride waves. Their instructor helped them down the beach and got them settled onto their board, they paddled out, turned around and were gently guided into a wave, the nose planed out and the pop up we had just practiced was engaged, boom… They were up and surfing the wave, the beach was going crazy with laughter and cheers as they made their way to the shore, loved ones and high fives waiting for them as they fell off of their boards exhausted and exhilarated into the water. The screen was beaming back at me; faces were all smiles and laughter, they were breathless with excitement.

We miss what we do at the beach so much and the impact that our organization has in the betterment of the lives of our athletes. Yet here was that stoke, here was the same result; connection, trust, belief in self, confidence and agency. Miles away from the beach and in their own homes we had our first Surf Therapy session of the season. They got some relief from the worries of their day and what this pandemic has brought. We got to continue to carry on our mission of helping those we can, one wave at a time… whether at sea or in the mind.

Connection and Social Distance

How do we connect with one another when socially distancing is the norm, hugs and physical touch can spread a deadly virus and smiles are hidden by face coverings? On top of that, the reopening of social places and gatherings feels like it was a bit premature as we are being asked, once again, to sacrifice connecting with one another physically for the greater good of our communities. How then can we feel communal? We are morally fatigued, watching ourselves scroll social media… Zoom and FaceTime are losing their novelty and feeling more like work and less party like than they once did.

It is time for connection through altruism, random acts of kindness and meeting fear, loathing and misunderstanding with compassion, acceptance and understanding. The fear, loathing and misunderstanding is easy, I can clearly see differences in others and I can exploit those differences to make myself feel superior or better about myself through egoism; valuing everything only in reference to one’s own personal interest. This is the total opposite of altruism where there is unselfish concern for, or devotion to the welfare of others. What side do you want to be on, the connective or dis-connective? The irony is that altruism is inherently Selfish, serving the higher, spiritual part of Self through Selfless acts whereas egoism is selfish and serves a lower more basic animalistic part of self. Be altruistic, reach out to the lonely and suffering, randomly check in on a neighbor that is alone, have the kids chalk their driveways or sidewalks with positive messages. Spread joy not hate, these times are so uncertain, be a beacon of connection, find the lonely and spread good cheer. You will feel better for it Selfishly…

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