Friday, March 8, 2013

Windsurfing the Soul

This is the original article I wrote in the summer of 2002. That moment was when I came up with term "soulwindsurfing". In this longish essay I tried to express my feelings and experiences during windsurfing. I also described how I came to learn it and why I think it is almost perfect  as an analogy of spiritual growth.

The article was published like a self-standing website, and was linked by most of the windsurfing portals in Croatia. Later, it was re-published it on a web portal for alternative sports (Adventure sport) under the title "Why is windsurfing the most beautiful sport ever invented..."

A lot of people read that article, including windsurfers and those who later wanted to become windsurfers. And now, it is a part of a history - the beginning of a beautiful new adventure...

WINDSURFING THE SOUL
- the art of connecting the impossible

Summer 1997

I spent the summer of 1997 trying to learn how to surf. In a little shady bay Crvena Luka (Red Port) near Biograd, for the first time in my life, I rented very old equipment, but it was more than satisfying for a beginner.

That summer I entertained the bystanders with my spectacular falls. Since I stubbornly decided to learn this skill by myself, without the help of an instructor, I climbed the board a million times, remained there for long few seconds, and then fell a million times. It is only natural that such an activity attracted many looks. People came to sit on that part of the shore only to watch me. Some of them tried to shout well-meant advice to me, but the shouting only distracted me, because I didn’t hear what they were saying anyway (my ears were filled with water).

I entertained the bystanders, and it wasn’t that bad for me either, because I finally managed to fight the summer boredom of the beach. But, every night when I tried to heal the bloody shin (from climbing the board) and torn skin on my palms (from over squeezing the boom), the fun was not that important. Nevertheless, on the following day I went on. And on and on. Actually, I spent a few hours of every day of that unusual summer vacation trying to surf. On the last day, I even managed to get from one side of the bay to another. Those 100 m made me a happy man! Of course, now I know I chose to learn the hard way. In any decent surfing school, I would have mastered this skill in two hours. No bloody arms and legs.

Why was I so stubborn? The simple answer would be that I’m like that, persistent in my stubbornness. But, still, never mind the way, why did I want this so much?
Because I had, somewhat intuitively, recognized one of the most beautiful sports ever invented. Besides, I recognized something more than a sport in it (which is the reason for this text). To explain this, I’ll skip a few years first.


Summer 2002

Karin, mid July. After a few days of tropical heat, a colder North-western front is approaching. It means a cold spell, but also bura in the Adriatic (Bura is a cold northern offshore wind on the Adriatc sea.) I’m on my way to ┼áibenik. After driving down the hairpin bends above Obrovac, the view is on the Sea of Novigrad, and after that the road goes past Karin and its beautiful bay.

One look at the sea surface and I know I’m going to be late for where I was heading. No chance am I going to miss this! Wind-blows on the surface, and in places you can see whitecaps; we call them “lambs”- white wave crowns. The Bura is not as strong here as it is under Velebit, but when it rushes down the hill on the north-eastern end of Karin, the bay has ideal conditions for safe surfing.

Between water and light.
Bliss in the movement; in a straight line…
However, not many surfers know about this, and not many of them come. During my voyages to the southern parts of the coast, I often stopped at this spot and spend heavenly moments: my surfboard and my sail; the sea and the Bura, and with these, I danced the most beautiful dance in the world. A lonely dance it was, since there is no one around me. Surprisingly, it is so even now, and it is mid summer. I’m going down the gravel path barely wide enough for my van, filled with sailing equipment. The path goes across a grassy valley, and down to the sea.

I step out the van only to contentedly look at the wind meters showing a good 20 knots. While I’m putting my equipment together, I notice I’m not alone after all. About 200 meters away, in a scattered shade of bush like trees a group of about 20 people is resting. I pay no attention to them. Busily, but calmly, I put my equipment together, and in 15 minutes time, I’m on the water.

What pleasure! I step on the board, hold my sail in front of me in a perfect “beach start”, while the board starts planning without hesitation. Foam is sputtering in the straps around my legs (so called “fuses”), and the trail of the speeding board is visible hundreds of meters behind me. Two, three minutes later, and I’m already on the other side of the bay. The turn down the wind (the so-called “jibe”) is almost perfect. Only at the end a little outside the skim, but then again a rush of wind and already I’m flying towards the shore I came from.

I lean hanging by the harness, my front leg is completely stretched out, and with my back leg I barely manage to keep the board under control. At such speed, the strain on the legs is considerable. However, the conditions are ideal for speed sailing. The Bura doesn't raise big waves in Karin. It rushes above the water disturbing it only so to make «lambs». The board slides over it as if it were an arrow discharged from a gigantic cannon.

Seen from the side, the board touches the water with only a small part of its surface, right above the fin. The rest is in the air. The sail is dropped down, so there is no crack between it and the board. The wind force is harnessed to the maximum. I lean backwards as much as I can. I have to: otherwise the wind would catapult me all the way to the other side. I feel comfortable. There is no strain. I keep maximum speed hanging by the sail. I loosen the front arm to prove to myself that I am not even holding the sail. Just out of playfulness, I lower it beside me and touch the speeding sea surface with my fingers.

Oh, what a feeling! My hand sways backwards. Next to the white board trail, there is the trail made by my fingers. Ease, calmness, effortlessness, playfulness, frightening speed and force at the same time! It sends shivers down my spine. I smile, lean my head backwards, almost touching the sea surface with it, and I can't hold it anymore: I scream with pure pleasure and happiness!

Sometimes I think that two hours of such windsurfing can change a man’s life forever. In fact, I often think that! That’s what I’m thinking now, contentedly getting out of the water, with a mysterious smile worthy of a Himalayan wise man. I don’t even reach my van, as 5-6 people catch up with me. Observers from the shade of that tree, I see immediately. They’re thrilled. Few of them have seen a real windsurfer. What people usually get to see is slow beginners windsurfing, not very attractive, except from the fact that someone is moving on the water surface; and very rarely they get to see some hard-core surfing on the TV. Therefore, it is not unusual that people are sometimes amazed to see what a surfboard can do.

“It’s like a speedboat!” they say in wonder.
“How fast can you go?” they ask.
“You look beautiful on the water!” they praise.
“We cheered that you don’t fall during the turns! You entertained us for two hours!” they say with obvious satisfaction.

Naturally, I am satisfied too. I answer the questions, happy because of successful sailing, and slightly on an ego trip because of unexpected fans. And then, in the midst of everything, I remember the summer five years ago when I had also entertained bystanderds on the coast, but in a completely different way! There has been a lot of wind in my sails since then and windsurfing has proved worthwhile. Although now I know that you can learn this skill much more easily, even if it couldn’t and I would need to go through this all over, I would still do it, without hesitation. For such moments, I would do anything.


Connecting the impossible

Now it’s time to get to the point. It is not my intention merely to write a hymn to windsurfing. In fact, I want to compare it to something completely different, with an area of life that is not at all external, but internal. I want to compare windsurfing to the spiritual work. This attempt will surprise many people. However, I know that this is not impossible. I know this not only from my own experience, but also from the experience of many others. I have recently read an excellent book by Laurie Nadel, Dancing with the Wind – Zen and the Art of Windsurfing.

Although I have already written about the connection of spiritual and personal development with windsurfing (in the book The Dream of a Dolphin the main character is a windsurfer and this skill helps him to transcend from the level of reality to an entirely different reality, the so-called Dreamtime; and in the book My Way to Magic I have dedicated a whole chapter to the relationship between activity and silence, and used windsurfing as an example of their perfect harmony). Dancing with the Wind surprised me with its profundity and liveliness. The author is going through a series of personal crises, including a potentially fatal illness. In confrontation with the difficulties she is using techniques of spiritual growth, but she is very much assisted by her love for windsurfing and application of windsurfing principles in the methods of working on herself. The book delighted me and it inspired me to present my own view of this extraordinary and, for many, completely unexpected connection.

As I have already mentioned, many of you will find these comparisons completely surprising. However, I personally believe that the same natural laws control the entire universe and that, if they are truly correct, can be applied in any situation. You only have to properly understand these natural laws and know how to use them.

I took on writing this text out of the need to express this connection. I don’t expect many people to understand the essence of it right away. In order to fully understand this connection, you would need to be a windsurfer and a spiritual person at the same time. In case you are only one of these, I suppose you will have, at least, some difficulties.

Windsurfers will perhaps be shocked – why would I want to connect their simple, exciting life passion with something like meditation or Zen? The spiritual persons, on the other hand, will shrink from a strong materiality of an adrenaline sport like windsurfing. However, I still hope that among those who read this text, there will be some from both of these groups open to new ideas. Who knows, maybe after this, more spiritual persons will begin windsurfing and more windsurfers will begin meditating!

However, even if this wouldn’t be the case, it is an exceptional satisfaction to write about the two loves and passions of mine, even if it’s a purpose in itself. However it turns out, I hope that anyone who takes a look at these lines will be enriched with a few life ideas.


Guidance

I will start with something that is not so obvious – guidance and preparation. For both the spiritual work on yourself and windsurfing, you need guidance and good preparation.

If you want to start properly, you can’t do that on your own. My beginner’s attempts at windsurfing are an example of the wrong approach.

You simply need an instructor, someone who will show you how things are done and in that way save you months of useless effort. Even today, when I encounter a move that I have difficulties with, I crave for someone more experienced, someone who would tell me what I’m doing wrong and how things should look.

It’s the same with spirituality. No matter how simple it appears, true guidance is necessary, especially in the beginning. You can’t just sit down and meditate. The chance that you’ll go wrong is so great that it’s not worth it to waste time on attempts. You could be saying – What’s so complicated about that? You read some instructions in one of many books, sit down and try it out. However, it’s not like that. Just as reading instructions on windsurfing doesn’t make a windsurfer, reading instructions on meditation doesn’t make a spiritual seeker. Theory is one thing, practice another. Therefore, it is best to begin with an instructor.

One more thing, no matter how ridiculous it might seem, if someone teaches you well how to windsurf, feel free to call him your windsurfing guru!


Preparing the equipment – living in the presence

But, let’s leave the question of learning for a moment and concentrate on real comparisons between the two, at first sight, so different areas of life.

Life in the present! The expression that every spiritual seeker encounters in the first days of learning. What does that have to do with windsurfing? A lot.

Perhaps you have noticed that Laurie Nadel in Dancing with the Wind has used as a subtitle a paraphrased title of a classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Not quite original, but surely a correct solution. Zen is impossible to define (in fact, the definition itself is a subject of hundreds of years of quest of Zen-Buddhists), but we can’t go wrong if we say that Zen has something to do with being here and now. The present moment is the time in which we have to live. However, our thoughts are mostly in the past or the future. One of the first lessons that a spiritual seeker has to learn is to be here and now, and not to be thinking about what had happened or what would happen. Worry, expectation, judgment, guilt, and escape – these are all opposite to Zen, which is right here and right now.

Now, what does all this philosophy have to do with windsurfing? Well, let us start with what comes before the actual windsurfing – preparing the equipment!

To windsurf, you need of course, a board and a sail. But a lot other equipment goes along with it. For example, a fin that you attach to a certain place on the board, and a base that holds the upper part of the equipment, the so-called rig. The rig is composed of a sail, boom, mast, mast extension and two firm ropes to attach the sail at the mast extension and at the beginning of the boom.  To put all this together into a meaningful and effective whole, you have to know what you are doing. It takes about ten minutes for an average surfer to put his equipment together. Equipment manufacturers have their experts who, by quickly setting up the equipment, show how easy it is to use. At such demonstrations, the rig is sometimes put together in a minute or two.  An average windsurfer doesn’t disregard these facts, because he knows how tiring it is to assemble the equipment on the shore, with the wind raging upon the water! Every windsurfer’s dream is to have the sail and board put together, to be able to take them any time they want and be on the water in ten minutes.

I have to admit that I too am sometimes the victim of such illusions. Especially when the wind force changes up to 10 knots ten minutes after I’ve put up an 8, 5-square-meter sail, forcing me to go back to the shore and put up a 7-meter sail. The whole process (going back, pulling out the equipment, and putting together a new rig) takes about half an hour, during which time wind goes stronger again, so I need a yet smaller sail! It is a nightmare! I could use someone on the shore to put the equipment together as I surf, and surf, and surf…

But then again, it wouldn’t be Zen, would it? Accepting the situation as it is, is a part of Zen. I will discuss this aspect of Zen later. Let’s focus on assembling the equipment for now. So, to do this, the most people boring, but actually very demanding and precise work of putting up the rig, you have to live in the present moment! You can’t think about anything else. You’re here and now! Putting up the sail. If you do it well, you’re not only a master of windsurfing, but also a master of Zen. Here and now. You had a choice: is it going to be boring and hard, while your thoughts are already on the water, and the body still on the shore, or are you going to turn a potentially boring work into a real ceremony. Believe me; it is worthwhile to use Zen when assembling the rig. Not only for the sake of windsurfing, but also for the sake of spiritual training.

By the way, a well-assembled sail makes half of the success on the water. Not only that your life sometimes depends on it (most windsurfers do not even think about that), but it is also a question of whether your hours spent on the water will be exciting and fulfilling, or straining and frustrating. Bjorn Dunckeberg, one of the best windsurfers ever, was famous for dedicating twice as much time to well-assembled equipment. While the others were already on the water, he would still be tightening, shifting, adjusting… But, when he finally got on the water, no one could beat him!

If you’re wondering what there is to prepare and adjust in assembling the rig, you’ll get the answer when you first try it on your own. Here is an example: a good windsurfer will get out of the water to tighten the sail on the mast by 5 millimeters (!!!), to adjust the shape of the sale to the conditions on the water. Five little millimetres make a difference between poor and excellent! I will not talk anymore (for example, about boom height, position of the board base, position of the harness lines. etc.) Windsurfers know what I’m talking about; the others have to try it out.

And while the others have to work on the “here and now” meditation, windsurfers have a chance for it every time they put together their equipment. Happy people, aren’t they?


Dancing with the wind – acceptance and cooperation

However, practicing Zen doesn’t end with putting together the equipment. Moreover, it extends to all aspects of windsurfing. Believe it or not, it can be seen in things as trivial as carrying the equipment from the place where you put it together to the water. But, these are details I would be glad to explain on an “advanced” seminar on the relationship between Zen and windsurfing!

We had better continue with the windsurfing itself. One of the first questions that a layman asks when watching a windsurfer is – How is it possible to sail towards a place that is in the direction of the wind? Interestingly enough, they never asked that watching sailing ships. It seems that this question is directed at windsurfing because the equipment looks fragile and sporting, as opposed to massive ships moved by the wind. So, how is it possible to sail upwind?

In fact it isn’t. You sail through the wind. What is only possible is to sail through the wind, but just slightly in it. Then, it is possible to turn around and in the same way sail again, then turn again and little by little, in a zigzag, cover the space and come to the point that is far upwind. By the way, you come to the point downwind direction in the same way – you sail through it, just a little downwind, then turn and the same again, until you reach the aimed position. In this way, our ancestors conquered the world seas, regardless of the wind direction. Therefore, it doesn’t matter from which direction the wind blows, as long as it blows!

Spiritual lesson? You can go anywhere, as long as you are moving! You mustn’t stop. The moment you feel that your life has stopped in a (un)familiar position, when it turns into something that doesn’t inspire you, doesn’t take you further; then you know that it is time to seek a new wind. Or, as I have written in one of 27 golden keys for creating happiness (the book Creating Happiness) – the change is always possible. And a change for the better.

Still, there’s something more in it. A windsurfer knows that he cannot go directly against the wind. He can only indicate his ‘intention’ to go there. It is the same in life. We cannot go against the circumstances or, if you prefer, against karma, but if we are determined to do what we want, we will achieve that, regardless of the circumstances.

The fact that, in order to achieve our goals, we have to learn to accept the will stronger than our own is a paradox. We have to subject to it in order to be able to live with it. In a spiritual sense, it is a rule to get the best out of the given circumstances. Whatever happens to us, it is happening for our own benefit. That is, we can use each event for our own evolution, for progress.

The wind is a higher force. We can’t and mustn’t play with it. The same goes for water. These are natural elements much more powerful than we are. If you have ever felt wind of plus-40 knots, then you know what I’m talking about. (Just for the record, knots are units for wind speed. In order to get the speed in km/h, you multiply 40 by 2.) Meteorologists would call this a gale-force wind. But, you can experience what this really means only when you try to keep the sail in your hands in such wind! Or, better to say, you try to hold onto it, pressing it closer to the water surface so that the wind wouldn’t lift you and the board and take you twenty meters away, throwing you around.

To think that you can tame such a force is an illusion. Even when the wind is not that strong I can recognize in it the wildness that makes it dangerous. The wind can become a beast. The wind is like an old, incomprehensible deity, whose motifs are not known to men. Only if you “dance the way it plays”, you can hope for its mercy. To cooperate, not to control. It is only in letting go that you can accomplish your goals.

This is what makes windsurfing a non-competitive sport. Of course, there are some very interesting competitions held. Apart from regattas, there are wave competitions, and lately very popular freestyle competitions, with judges, points and everything else that follows big shows. Windsurfing is also attractive to audiences, and there are sponsors who know how to make the best of it.

However, when you sail only because you want to sail, you don’t compete against anyone. You learn how to cooperate with the wind, water and yourself. This is the difference between windsurfing and any other sport. For example, when you play tennis, even if you do it rarely for a recreation, you always compete with your opponent. There are no opponents here. Only you and the wind. If you fall, you don’t fall because of the wind: the wind blows the same and takes no notice of you. You fell because of you, and because you didn’t cooperate well with the wind.

Someone could mention that life is a competition and that windsurfing is of no use. Hm, which life is a competition? The one we learned to live. But, this doesn’t mean that this is the way it has to be. Spiritual and personal growth isn’t a successful competition (although it means accomplishment of one’s goals). Everyone who is taking the spiritual path should learn how NOT to fight against life and circumstances. Cooperation with life and people is a much better approach. This is what a windsurfer practices every day: cooperation with life.

I’m aware that most windsurfers doesn’t think this way, but still, they apply these principles every day they’re on the water. Spontaneously, they apply profound life wisdom when windsurfing. Sometimes I get carried away in thoughts of what could happen to these people if they only became aware of what they’re doing, and start applying this skill in every aspect of their lives. The world would be richer for a lot of wiser and happier people…


Balance

Keeping balance is maybe the most obvious parallel between windsurfing and spiritual practice. Without balance there is no sailing. Similarly, without balance, there is no fulfilled life.

I remember, in the beginning, I had many problems with balance on the board, compared to the balance on the land. Trying to stand up on a swinging board, I spread my legs and bent my knees. It was an automatic process remaind from playing basketball. In other words, when someone tries to push you, a wide, low stand means lowering your center of gravity and more stability. However, this didn’t work on the surfboard. Only after some time did I realize that what you need to do is to pull your legs together and stretch backwards to keep balance, using the sail as counter-balance. Actually, I had to realize that this is not only me now, but also my equipment! In windsurfing, balance is a notion that encompasses not only your body but also something outside you, and finally the natural elements: of course, the wind, but also sea conditions, waves and currents.

As the speed grows and skill improves, balance gets more dynamic. But, you always have to keep it. Every move has to be in harmony with it, otherwise you fall. At the beginning the falls are rather harmless, but if you lose balance at a speed of 50 km/h, not even the suit or the rescue vest can save you: hitting the sea surface is going to hurt! If you consider losing control of the board and the sail, you better wear a helmet as well!

But, if you keep your balance…there are no limits to what you can do! Speeding without any effort, turn at a sharp angle without slowing down, but accelerating; jumping two, three, or more meters up and away; do unusual tricks while turning the sail, board and yourself…and all that with ease with which you read this text! The secret, of course, is in the balance.

On the other hand, a spiritual quest is nothing other than a quest for balance. True spirituality is not an escape from pressure, but a creation of a dynamic system moving, not despite, but thanks to that very pressure! In our lifetimes we come across many problems. Stress is all around us. We can compare its activity with that of the wind. It is a force that is affecting us. It is our task to find a counter-balance, something to help us lean on stress and use its pressure to move forward.

Just as a windsurfer knows he mustn’t overload any of the windsurfing systems (too much pressure with the leg, leaning too far backwards, etc.), or allow the wind to overload it on its side, so a wise man knows that harmony of all parts of his life is a formula for success. Not too much of anything, and a constant focus on the goal. This is the formula for success.


Ease

There is something else connected to balance: when you reach it you feel immediate relief! Balance is the absence of strain. When you strain the sail so much that you level the thrust of the wind (in windsurfer jargon this point is called the “centre of effort”), all the forces affecting you and the board are suddenly being cancelled out; that is, they are being turned into moving on water. A windsurfer remains in a weightless position, he feels ease, and with it comes the impression by speed and all that force which he had somehow redirected in the desired direction. There is no strain, muscles are relaxed, you are floating in a point in which the force of wind is going through you, and you still feel nothing but ease. Wonderful, isn’t it?

The same thing happens with spirituality. Once we achieve equilibrium of inner and outer elements of our lives, the result is endless ease! We feel like there are no obstacles in front of us, or, if there are any, we overcome them without any trouble. The most spiritual authorities agree that the feeling of inner ease is one of the signals of a successful spiritual development. It is a direct consequence of achieving equilibrium.

When a windsurfer seeks the ‘centre of effort’, he in fact learns how to find a place of inner calm in the midst of the dynamic equilibrium of confronted elements. Everything he needs in order to step from this place into spirituality is the understanding of this process and a conscious application in everyday life.


Silence and activity

In fact, I have to correct myself – when a windsurfer finds this place (and he finds it each time he successfully plannes with his feet in the straps – that means often), he is already inside the area of life I consider to be spiritual!

At the beginning, speaking about the summer of 2002, and the experience in Karin, I had mentioned that scream of pure enjoyment during surfing. Screams and shouts are common among windsurfers in action. It’s because they feel a concentrated bliss and can no longer keep it inside! 

The reason for the ‘concentrated bliss’ is a simultaneously keeping stillness and movement, silence and activity. When a windsurfer achieves equilibrium with the feeling of ease, he suddenly finds himself in an area that some sport theorists will call ‘the eye of the storm’. You probably know that there’s a calm place in the eye of every storm, around which the storm spins. Activity on the outside, calm on the inside.

When you achieve this state on a subjective level, it seems that our capabilities are significantly increasing. Some top athletes call this experience ‘the zone’ (If you can, read an excellent book by John Douillard – Body, Spirit and Sport). They say that Michael Jordan spent the most of his career ‘in the zone’. Marathon runners often report similar experiences. I believe that windsurfers experience this almost every time when in water and that they enjoy the dynamic equilibrium of windsurfing!

Spiritual authorities tell us that the experience of simultaneously keeping calm and activity represents a higher state of consciousnesses’. In any case, this experience doesn’t differ from the normal state of consciousness, at least by the unusual feeling of joy running through your veins. The present world calls this adrenaline. Ancient wise men had their own name for the cause of thrill a man feels in the moments of integration of calm and activity. They said that in those moments, the body creates soma, drink of the gods. So, now you know, if you ever hear a windsurfer screaming with joy on his board, know that he drank some soma! He’s beyond salvation; he will be under the influence for as long as wind will blow into his sail.

Once again, most of windsurfers are not aware of this. They don’t even think about it. They simply enjoy in what they do. I think that the realization of this process would be useful for many. It would be nice if they would consciously transfer this sensation to everyday life. Of course, that can be done. Some even do it spontaneously. Because of that, at least I feel that way, on places where windsurfers gather there is at least a small trace of spirituality. Something, a trace, invisible and intangible, but if you’re open, then you recognize it. You know it’s there, although no one thinks about speaking about it.


Surrender

So far I was writing about goals and achievement common to windsurfing and spiritual development. Now I would like to say something about the methods for achieving that. One of the most important and my favorite procedures is practicing surrender.

Do you know what means to surrender? It is a rare notion. Usually we use it in the context of religion or love, but today, we use it less and less. Who still surrenders to God nowadays? Or, who still surrenders to his partner?

Still, surrendering is an important practical skill that in fact calls for letting go of the control over something. Giving up control. During life, we’ve been taught exactly the opposite. They taught us how to keep control. But, as I have written, you can’t control a force more powerful than yourself. You can’t control either life nor wind. You can only work with it. When you ask yourself how to work with it, the answer is simple – let go! Quit the idea to control it and let it guide you.

In learning how to windsurf there are lot of moments when it’s necessary to surrender. I will describe one of the most important ones.

Mastering this skill has several levels. First you learn how to keep balance on the board that is slowly moving through the water. You learn to spin with and against the wind, and to go back to the point where you started. Then you sail with the wind more strongly, and you learn how to use the harness (with which you hang to the boom) instead of your hands. Somewhere soon comes your first plane, that is, the board coming out of the water, and the new, speed balance you have to learn to master. Modern boards have straps for legs, positioned at the back of the board. As a beginner I used to watch these straps and wonder how, in the name of God, would I ever put my feet in them! I tried to do it on shore, but the position I ended up in was so awkward I soon gave up. Then I tried to put my feet there while the board was moving through the water. But, since I had to stand at the end, the board started sinking and I ended up in the water. It was just not working. You can put your feet in the straps only when the board is planing. The resistance becomes strong enough so that you are moving backwards on the board doesn’t cause it to sink. Moreover, this position in planing, with the harness well set, speeds up the board's movement, increases the control, and is the only possibility to keep balance.

That’s all fine, but how do you put your feet into those fusses??? Believe me, I struggled with this for months, which again reminds me that I didn’t have a windsurfing guru by my side. If I had had him, everything would have been much easier.

I will describe the right procedure. First of all, you have to plane, of course. This means you’re in the harness, because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to keep counterbalance against the wind with your hands. You move your feet very close to the straps. Than, you put the front leg into the front strap. And then… of course, the logical thing to do would be to put your back leg in the back strap, and there you are! But it isn’t as simple as it seems. It is true; you have to put the back leg in the back strap. But, to do this, you have to apply one of the most important procedures for keeping balance: you have to give up the control over your board!

That is, all the procedures applied until now have been designed for you to consciously maintain balance with the board and the sail. Even the above-described procedure of getting your feet into the straps is like that. You are planing, you’re hanging by the harness, moving your feet, putting one leg into the strap…everything is under control. You can feel the pressure, you pressure back, and everything is as usual. But now, if you move your back leg, you’ll disturb the balance and what happens to the board then?

And that’s it. You have to learn to put your destiny into the hands of the wind. This single moment, when you’re putting your back leg in the strap, means losing control over everything. You have to do it because otherwise you cannot stand where you want. As short as it may last, you have to give up the control over the board and the sail. It’s difficult, you can’t decide. You have fallen too many times not to know how bad it is. The board is planing, which means you’re moving very fast. What will happen?

If you get the nerve and let go, there is a moment of panic. You’re falling towards the water! The nose of the board turns against the wind. A little bit, but there’s no chance of holding it now that you have let it go. It’s over! But…no! What’s happening? You feel thrust in the harness! You didn’t fall down. The same wind you let go to, kept you standing. Finally! You’re hanging by the sail, and only pushing the board away from you. And the board, as if with its brakes off, lifts its nose even higher and flies unstoppably ahead, faster than ever! Both your legs are in the straps. You’re finally a real windsurfer! You have learned to surrender in practice.


Perpetual learning

There are many situations in windsurfing when you have to let the wind do what it does without you taking part in it. Other than tackling with the above-mentioned feet straps, there is also moving from the water, the so-called “water start”, during which you let the wind lift you onto the board. You use a similar procedure when turning downwind, in the so-called jibe.

As you see, there are many details to learn. It is significant that you have to learn each detail with time. Balance in windsurfing is dynamic. If you lift your leg, or loosen the sail, or lean back or forth too early (or too late), you won’t be able to do the manoeuvre you wanted. The order of the actions is very important. It is also a part of keeping balance.

The process of learning takes some time. In fact, the most beautiful thing about windsurfing may be the fact that the process never ends! There is always something new to learn.
The comparison with personal growth comes in mind again here. It never ends. You’re never at the end of your way, because getting there is what is important! As in windsurfing, you cannot act as if you’ve accomplished something in spirituality either.

A real windsurfer knows how many things there are that he doesn’t know! Every spiritual seeker is aware of this as well. The moment you think you’ve learned a lesson in life and your ego grows to the point where you start bragging about it, nature sends you a warning in the form of a new challenge. Another negative emotion, another inner turmoil, another situation that causes imbalance inside you… There is too much to do. If you’re eager to “finally” do it, to finish it, it is the best sign that you haven’t even started yet! As long as you are in the human form, you have some learning ahead.

You can try to make others believe you are a “spiritually developed” person. You can even persuade them. But in reality, doing this only makes things difficult for you. It is like doing something too early in windsurfing. You’ll probably fall, or your performance will be lame at best. Windsurfing teaches us the value of time and the value of modesty. A true spiritual seeker always nurtures modesty. Experience has taught him that. Just as it has taught the windsurfer. Oh, there are those on ego trips, of course! But deep down even they know that the next gust of wind can blow their egos away.



Windsurfing the Soul

I could write a lot about the comparisons between windsurfing and personal growth. But I’m afraid I would get too technical and detailed. The purpose is accomplished for the time being. Everything else, as I said before, on an “advanced” seminar!

The purpose of our life is creating and spreading of happiness. Our ability to do this is the condition for spiritual growth. But then again, happiness is not a state, but a process. It is in the moving towards the goal, and not in actually being there. Our life task is to discover life wisdom and principles that are successfully governing the lives of people and the universe, and then apply them in our own lives.

As a spiritual seeker, and a guide for those who choose this path, I never liked abstractions and philosophy. Life wisdom has to be simple, to the point and applicable. That’s why I’m so thrilled to have found the sport applies these principles to the maximum extent possible. If spirituality sometimes leaves you confused, windsurfing is definitely not like that. If you apply the principle of balance, you’ll keep on moving. If you’re wrong, you’ll be in the water in no time!

Of course, similar principles can be found in other sports and activities. But, somehow, I feel that windsurfing is closest to the ideal. It could be a matter of personal taste, but this is my opinion.

I think that keeping your body in shape is crucial for spiritual development. Too many times I have come across to so-called spiritual men who neglect their bodies or loathe sports. Maybe the competitive character of modern sports is to blame for this, but this has been dealt with in windsurfing. If we add this need to the exceptional obviousness of spiritual principles in mastering windsurfing, we get the ideal combination for anyone who cares about the development of the spirit, body and soul.  For a moment, let’s remember what a windsurfer does every day when he sails. 


· S/He’s practicing life in the present moment, from the moment s/he starts preparing hers/his equipment.
· S/He accepts circumstances as they are and works together  with the elements of nature.
· By constantly keeping balance between hers/his movements, the board, the sail, the wind and the sea, s/he’s keeping the dynamic movement of the entire system.
· During this entire process, s/he has to let go of the control many times and give in to a force more powerful and smarter than himself/herself.
· The overall result of hers/his activity is the state of integration of silence and activity, the silent eye of the storm, the experience of ‘the zone’, which is the basis for the development of higher states of consciousness.
· The total windsurfing activity is a process of a never-ending learning, perfect in every moment.


One cannot wish for anything better. Healthy, refreshing physical activity at the same time working very positively on our spiritual development! Because of that, it’s not surprising that anyone can practice windsurfing, from small child to old people. Yes, I have seen 65-year-old men sailing like young men. Unlike other sports, there are no obstacles. I was also present when a lady in her late 50s first tried it. She did very well and soon she was enjoying the water together with her 10 years older husband. Two more lessons from windsurfing: nothing is impossible and it’s never too late!

In the end, maybe some day someone opens a school of windsurfing that will cover all these spiritual principles. I believe this would be an unusually efficient way of learning windsurfing and spiritual knowledge.

I wish you good winds, above the water and in your souls!
Adrian


Some more years passed, I did practice, and practice...
And I am still practicing and enjoying in it.
There is nothing better than this.
Mind. Body. And Wind.

3 comments:

  1. spent all morning at work looking for your article again (I read it last summer). The words really capture the feeling and soul of the sport and resonate with me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Kris. I wish you good winds and lot of joy!

      Delete
  2. Wow! You have detailed your article very nicely and I really liked it. If you had to say something on Portable Weather Measuring Instruments's uses,what would say?

    ReplyDelete