As I watched my board corkscrew through the air, high above the beachgoers and children building sandcastles, I wondered if there could possibly be another way. It started with a drop-in. Then, as I waited for another chance among a throng of neoprene, a shouting match erupted between two guys over nothing. My tension level rose even further when I fell for no apparent reason on a wave that was never offering much in the first place. From there my surf spiraled into hopeless floundering, board bashing, and cursing until finally, upon exiting the water, it culminated in throwing my surfboard across a crowded beach. With eyes on me, the anger and frustration responsible for my board taking flight quickly turned to shame. I needed to disappear, to find a quiet place, to be alone.
"It's not the crowd," Dave "Rasta" Rastovich told me a few days later over the phone, "it's your reaction to the crowd." And in his clear, articulate words I could find nothing but truth. Rasta believes that I can find inner peace through meditation and, as a bonus, surf better, too.
The Blue-Sky Mind
"Everyone has their own experience when it comes to meditating," explains Rasta, "it's much like surfing. No one can go out and tell anyone how to ride a wave. No one can tell you how to meditate; you must sit down and feel the bliss of being meditated. Just like surfing, you go out and do what you do and it comes out naturally."
For the sake of your education, however, the basic tenets of meditation can be illustrated through the "Blue-Sky Mind" analogy. If you look at your mind as the sky appears to us, clear and blue, then you can consider the clouds as passing thoughts. Sometimes the clouds cover everything and are pervasive, but what meditation attempts to do is to clear the clouds away--to clear your thoughts and enjoy the blue sky.
"Most of us in Western society never do that for our minds," says Rasta. "We get shit-faced (1) and get out of your mind for a while. Or we go surfing and ride a tube or a wave and that kinda pulls you out of your mind and into the environment and into your body."
SURFER Magazine Tearing Up The Astral Plane
My first meditative experience came by way of a free mp3 sample on the Internet (2). Mysticism, it appears, has gone digital, too. Regardless, I went all out: scented candles, low lighting, and Enya on my iPod. However, 20 minutes into the experiment, kneeling in position, my feet went completely numb. At first I thought it was a part of the package; since I was aware of my feet, I was being "body aware," and therefore doing it right. But soon, the awareness became a screaming, aching plea to move. The pain was such that my blue-sky mind had become a raging squall. When I opened my eyes, my feet were a dark blue. By kneeling, I cut off the blood supply to my feet and because of it I could argue that I reached a deeply meditative state simply by fixating on the question of whether I would ever walk again. I soon realized that I would need professional help.
The following Monday night I paid my $5 fee (3) at the Laguna Beach Rec. Hall, took my shoes off, and joined the circle. The results were much better, although I spent most of the hour wondering if everyone else was watching me and laughing at my expense. The other problem I encountered was that the act of meditation becomes even more difficult when you have to write about it. Formulating ways to describe the experience while doing it implicitly defeats the point. I therefore found, paradoxically, that I can only achieve my meditative goals when this article is finally published.
The Good News:
Another way of looking at meditation is by trying to achieve something called "vertical time," an instance where you are so engrossed in what you are doing that time has no place or context. I'm not sure about you, but this happens every time I go surfing. Generally, my attention span doesn't last much longer than an episode of Family Guy, but when I'm in the water, hours can be compressed into what seems like mere minutes (4). There have been a lot of references to this phenomenon, and this is probably what Shaun Tomson meant when he said, "Time expands in the tube."
Rasta agrees: "The things I would experience while tuberiding, the feelings of bliss and ecstasy, are very similar to the feelings I get while meditating."
Rasta believes that meditating can actually help your surfing. "Surfing is all about sensation and feeling," he says, "how your surfboard feels against your toes and heels and how you feel the wave under that. You look at the wave bending down in front of you and that's a form of observation...really with meditation you're becoming a very sensitive witness to your mind and body and that translates to good surfing."
There can be no denying that sitting for an hour and doing absolutely nothing--not even thinking--is awesome. I felt more relaxed and aware of my body after every meditation session. Although I couldn't say with any certainty that meditating actually improved my surfing, I will say that I am coping slightly better with the crowds. Having said that, I challenge Rasta to spend a month at Salt Creek without going completely out of his mind.
A QUICK GUIDE TO MEDITATION WITH DAVE RASTOVICH
"You can do it at any moment. Walking is really good because of the rhythmic movement. If I'm surfing, I just sit and focus on being in the water and surfing. That way thoughts--rampant thoughts--don't ever come into the picture. You're just there doing what you're doing. Being a surfer. But when I'm at home or traveling, I take some time out, put a pillow on the ground, and kneel. My spine is really straight, so it creates a feeling of assertiveness, you feel awake. When you slump you feel tired. I close my eyes and become that observer. At the end of that, when I want to come back into the world, I do it very slowly and try to integrate that feeling of space in the mind into reality. I open my eyes, have a bit of a stretch, and feel my body. If you sit for an hour your body can get a bit tight. The clock doesn't really matter though, but an hour is really great. If you do it for five minutes a day that's all-time--you'll really notice a vast improvement in your mental capacity to do stuff, to communicate, to think clearly, and be more aware when you're surfing."
(1) If this is the case, rather ashamedly, I could be considered a guru.
(3) A "love donation."
(4) Especially when I should be at work or have some other mundane pressing commitment.