Surf Therapy in the time of Covid

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…

Be Grateful & Fulfilled

Be Grateful & Fulfilled

Name 5 things you are grateful for right now, I will wait…
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How did that feel?
What did your body do?

I am willing to bet that whatever stresses or worries you had feel different now, if they are even present. That your body is more at ease, there may be a smile spread across your face and your jaw and shoulders are probably more relaxed. I am not one to believe that you can positively think your way through everything. Challenges will arise within and outside of you, you will experience, sadness, anger, stress and fear. Yet, what we pay attention to will grow. The happiest people I know live in gratitude and are able to express it: to themselves and to others. See and celebrate what you have and the wonderful gifts around you not what you think you should or do not have. Live a life of abundance, not poverty.

Be grateful and be fulfilled

Try this test, for one week keep a note pad next to your bed and when you rise write down five things you are grateful for. Make sure every day your list is different. See how the evolution of your day changes when you set a tone of gratitude. Keep it going as long as you can and watch how grateful you will feel about the smallest things, like the warmth of sunlight spreading through your room in the morning, or the feel of the fabric of your favorite T-shirt against your skin. Finding gratitude everywhere is easy, just practice and do…

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There is no happily ever after, just happily here and now…

There is no happily ever after, just happily here and now…

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
– Ferris Bueller

Where are your thoughts right now? Are you able to concentrate on the words you are reading or are you ‘future tripping’, worrying about carpool rides for the kids, or maybe you are wondering if you will be okay or be unprepared and awkward in tomorrow’s staff meeting? Are you projecting into the future your thoughts and feelings only to arrive at that time and place never truly ‘be there’, desperately attempting to figure out what may or may not happen and how I will feel when I get there? This is the very definition of anxiety. Living in speculation and expectation can lead towards resentment, not only
towards self but towards others and your outer world in general. Or are you remorseful and resentful, regretting past decisions you have made? Should have, could have, would have, living in the past, torturing yourself and listening to the lies you tell yourself until it becomes a narrative that constructs who you are.

These states of being can keep us in victim mode, reacting to things emotionally as they arise, taking things always personally. These speculative states can only lead to suffering, and to what end? As our brain desperately attempts to map out the future so that we are not surprised we become risk averse, stuck in a fight, flight or freeze mode. We are unable to access higher regions of the brain and self and process our thoughts and feelings effectively. Living in the past creates doubt and second-guessing, each should, could and would is a total lie, we cannot change things in our past only learn from them. We can work on staying in the only thing that truly is; the moment you are in.

Staying present, centered and aware can be challenging, but here are a few exercises to ground
you and bring you into your true reality.

You can first start by naming things in the room, I know it sounds silly but go ahead and do it now… what you are feeling is physically being in the time and place that you are in. When we have gotten good at that, we can continue to cycle through our senses; what we are hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling, literally coming into them… The sounds of the your neighborhood coming to life, the coffee from this morning, the cushions supporting our body as we sit. All of your senses come to life; you can be present to what is in front of you and around you, able to flow on into the next indicated thing.

 

Anxiety is living in the future, depression is living in the past.

The key to being okay is living in the here and now.

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