This morning I participated in UNCW’s “surf clinic,” which is a scary way of saying I went with a group of gals to learn how to surf at the cove in Kure Beach about 30 minutes from where I live. It was…hard. Surfing is hard, people! I fell off a few times even while just lying down on the board flat. The waves come from from any direction depending on the wind and other current factors I once learned in Intro to Oceanography but have since forgotten because it involved numbers.
At first, it was a pretty, calm, 75 degree day and there weren’t many waves to be had (later I heard it was snowing today in Chicago, where my brother lives, and I couldn’t help but rub it in that I was at the beach). Then, out of no where, the waves rose up and swung our board out from under us before any of us could manage to stand. At one point I got caught in the area where the breakers were and just kept getting my legs cut out from under me and then dragged down the beach by my whipping, frenzied, free board (you are attached to it at the ankle). Over and over.
It was pretty comical–and exhausting. After being dunked for the fifth time, choking on salt water, and tired from paddling, I asked the instructor how much time was left–sure as I was that we’d been out there at least an hour. Her response? “An hour or so left!” Apparently it’d only been twenty.
All in all, by the end I managed to ride in two waves, one on accident propelled me forward as I clutched my board for dear life and ended up riding in some weird chattaranga position. The other time was on purpose and I managed to get up on my knees for a blissful, balanced two seconds before the board tipped and I went flying face first into the surf.
All during my attempts to stand, however, I realized how much of my energy was consumed with negativity and doubt. This is not going to happen, I remember thinking. I’m not going to be able to stand up. Oh God, what if I get hurt? What if there are sharks? What if they can smell my lady blood? What about Man-O’Wars? What if I careen right into the instructor and break her nose? (The safety talk given by the instructor did nothing to allay my fears and instead served to remind me of all that could possibly go wrong).
As I write this, I’m reminded of this sound healing/ manifest desire meditation workshop I went to last weekend at the yoga studio I teach at. The workshop was split into two parts: one, on sound healing with Tibetan singing bowls (which I loved! Who knew vibrations could make you feel so good?), and two, on a journal exercise based on the book turned documentary The Secret (screening on Netflix right now!), where philosophers and psychologists weigh in on the phenomenon of the law of attraction: the idea that the universe is powered by thought and that we can manifest our desires if we channel our thoughts more positively. I.e., when you are worried about debt, you tend to think, please no more debt. You obsess about it. Your body basically becomes this whole thought: your shoulders tense, your stomach hurts every time the mail comes, you don’t sleep as well. And all the universe hears is debt, debt, debt. And what do you get? More debt.
Instead, what the book/movie recommend is that you frame your thoughts positively. What do you want? More money? Think about that. Think about what you would do with more money. Imagine checks arriving. And soon, you find yourself in a position to bring yourself to more solvency. A job opportunity arrives. You win that poetry contest you sent off for weeks ago and had forgotten about. Grandma puts a check in the mail. And your body is more relaxed. More rested. More able to seek out cash opportunities. But the trick is psychological. You really got to get your brain to believe it, or your mind’ll sneak in with more negativity, and you’ll be right back where you were before: stuck in a sneaky hate spiral.
It sounds a bit like hocus-pocus (and the low quality of the documentary, especially the super creepy cheesy house of horrors music they use at the beginning, doesn’t help). But I found myself wondering as I sat here reflecting on surfing what would have happened in the water as I paddled with the wave roaring up behind me if, each time, regardless of the wind, regardless of my inexperience and silly fears about wildlife, regardless of the feeling of the board tipping, I’d started to imagine myself already standing?
There’s a really funny, silly, stoner-humor part of Forgetting Sarah Marshall (one of the hands down funniest break up movies ever) where Paul Rudd as the surf instructor keeps telling Jason Segel to “do less!” and I wonder if he really meant, just think less and do it. I do tend to over think even the smallest of actions, something I’m trying to work on.
To end, I’ll bring this positive framing of thoughts idea to bear on my experience getting back in the physical, rather than online classroom this week. I’m volunteering as a “writer in action” (gotta love that title) with UNCW, serving as a guest middle school teacher for two hours every Thursday. This week we did a neat lesson on extended metaphor and I got to teach 7th graders what a tenor and a vehicle is (and remind myself what the difference is. Teacher tip I came up with on the spot: tenor is your topic. Vehicle is the comparison that helps you move through your description in refreshing ways). And I observed the teacher as he helped team teach the lesson with me taking the lead–he was so good at handling discipline in positive, rather than negative terms, of focusing on what he wanted to see, not what he didn’t want to see. I remember learning this as a nervous, anxious, hopeless first year teacher with Teach For America and how skeptical I felt about it back then, but it’s true: in the hands of a master, it IS like magic, like hocus-pocus. I watched, in awe/remembering when I’d utilized the method in the past, as the teacher walked around, saying, “I appreciate how this side of the room is doing what they are supposed to be doing, pencils out, answering the bell work prompt quietly….[pause as other side of the room scrambled to task, a sudden hush and whir of pencils scratching taking over the talk] and now I appreciate how everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing! I’m just so full of appreciation right now.”
And so, readers, I invite you to try it, even if it feels silly, and sound off if you have any examples of this law of attraction thing manifesting in your life (or of it failing miserably!).
For my part, I’m going to try to imagine myself standing. Writing that book. Healing those heart wounds. Teaching well. Entering complicated professional situations where I have to see people who’ve hurt me before hurt me in new ways not with more hurt, but instead with poise. Confidence. Feeling all the love that this world holds for me and finding who are the people who show up for me. And I’m suddenly just so full of appreciation right now.