Yoga is union. To be in union is to feel as one with the flow of life. This is the same objective for surfing, so we can naturally see how these go well together. The energy of flow is alluring and seductive. It is the very state of all that exists, as nothing is ever truly static in nature. All particles, molecules, cells, and living and nonliving beings in the universe exist in a constant state of flow. Even those objects that appear to be static, such as a rock or piece of metal, are in a subtle state of flow. Their molecules are simply much denser and vibrating close together, so that they appear to be solid.
Water is the only visible element where we can witness the energy of flow in its most apparent form. When a surfer enters the ocean, there is a relationship formed between the flow of the waves and the flow of consciousness that must be aligned for a successful ride to take place. The best surfers begin at a young age and practice relentlessly for years to master this art. The same is true for yogis. Some people are more naturally inclined toward this mastery from the beginning due to their essential nature given at birth, their environment, diet, or upbringing. Most people will need to train and practice to rise to a level of mastery of the flow. But when this happens, it can affect life on all levels. When we master the flow state, we master our lives.
The flow state of consciousness is the realm where miracles, genius, outstanding creativity, and all mastery exist. It is pure potential without any blocks or barriers. In this state you feel the greatest sense of joy and happiness, as well as experience amazing health. Sickness, disease, pain, and injury do not exist in the flow state, or if they do, your awareness of how to heal and cure yourself becomes so clear, you rapidly move toward vibrant health. To enter the state of flow is also to heal yourself on the deepest level, as you align with your essential nature. This is the same essence as existence, so through this experience you become one with existence. It’s not difficult to experience this for a moment or two, but to master sustaining it indefinitely is the aim of yoga. In yoga this state is often referred to as enlightenment, nirvana, or samadhi.
In the flow state you can access your innate or latent talents, without planning or preparation. There is no limit to the creative potential you may experience when you access this state; therefore, it is a way to experience the boundless and infinite nature of life itself.
Yoga and surfing teach, in overt and subtle ways, how to access the flow state of consciousness, and when combined, the practitioner can find themselves in an otherworldly experience. Beyond the incessant thoughts and confines of the mind, beyond the emotional turbulence and ups and downs of life, in a place that feels like infinite stillness, there is a realm often referred to as the void. The void is actually not empty, it is infinite flow. It is simply beyond thoughts, so it can feel like emptiness; however, it is actually the realm where everything exists in an infinite eternal flowing state of pure essence. This is the realm of the akasha, which in yoga is known as the realm of pure spirit.
As a yogi, a teacher, and a student of flow, I often see people entering the journey at various stages of mastery. In the beginning, it can feel somewhat awkward and can even be painful. This is true for all of life, as well as for yoga and surfing. Why? Because as the body-mind consciousness becomes attuned to a new way of being, old patterns and beliefs must die. When you lose mental focus and “check out” is when the tragic moment usually occurs.
It is in these moments that pain can be the greatest teacher. It can occur in yoga, when a student attempts a new pose or transition that is far beyond their current level and feels the anguish of tight or weak muscles, tendons, and ligaments and their apparent physical limitation. In surfing the same anguish may occur as the new surfer attempts a barrel wave only to become caught in its perilous grip and come crashing down upon a reef or some other potential hazard.
But if you ask a master surfer about these perils, you will get the same response every time: It’s all part of the learning process. You have to go through it until you learn to become one with the ocean. And the yogis express the same sentiment. Except instead of becoming one with the liquid ocean, yogis aim to become one with the ocean of existence. If the promise is big enough, in this case mastering the flow and/or the wave, the price you have to pay often feels less steep.
Time and again you will see the novice surfer stand back up after a big fall, wipe off the blood from their rib cage, and paddle back out to give it another try. This is especially true for those surfers who have had a taste of the promise and reward at least a few times, so they will do whatever they can to grow, get better, or possibly just get their fix. After all, the natural high and exhilaration one experiences as a result of catching an epic wave, gliding across the water with seemingly effortless grace, can be addictive. Not to mention, simply being in the ocean is purifying and cleansing for the body, mind, and energy.