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Lions Roar : March 2006
sand. I felt like a failure, unable even to get out to the point of takeoff. But after a few weeks of daily beatings, I learned the most important principle of surfing: a wave, no matter how large, is still just water. If you understand the wave and how it moves, you don't have to be afraid of it (or at the very least, you can be less afraid). After all, when you break a wave down to its basic nature, it is just cycling energy moving through water. When the conditions are right, when the water is shallow enough, the wave is born. It breaks. It dies. It becomes the sea again. When I realized this on an experiential level-through learning how to "duck dive" under or through the wave so that its spiraling energy sucks you under and spits you toward the horizon-the waves lost their ability to paralyze me. I began to see through them, and also enjoy rid- ing them. The same thing happens in meditation with waves of thought. At first our minds are stormy, and the water is choppy and mucky with silt and sand. It's like jumping into a washing machine. We get thrown around by currents and whitewash with little awareness. The waves are too close together and they all seem very solid, very real. But as we practice regularly, the winds of thought become gentler and the sea gets what surfers call "glassy." There are still surges of thought, but they are distin- guishable, like the sets of waves that surf- ers patiently wait for because they're the easiest to anticipate and have the clearest form. Because of the quiet space between them, we can recognize these thoughts as they swell into our consciousness: excite- ment, pride, planning, anger. We see them coming and can ride them with the stabil- ity, balance, and poise of a skilled surfer, or simply let them pass. And the more aware we become, we can even begin to see- while riding-that the wave is imperma- nent and lacks individuality. It's the same substance as the ocean, the basic nature. Eventually, on long retreats, we might experience periods when there are almost no waves in the mind, simply gentle rip- ples, an occasional splash. Some might say that these moments are the goal of medi- SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2006 31