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 “center of effort”), all the forces affecting you and the board are suddenly being canceled out; that is, they are being turned into moving on water. A windsurfer remains in a weightless position; s/he feels at ease, and with it comes the impression of speed and all that force that he had somehow redirected in the desired direction. There is no strain, muscles are relaxed, you are floating at a point where the force of the 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. Most spiritual authorities agree that the feeling of inner ease is one of the signals of successful spiritual development. It is a direct consequence of achieving equilibrium.
When a windsurfer seeks the ‘center of an effort’, he, in fact, learns how to find a place of inner calm amid the dynamic equilibrium of confronted elements. Everything he needs to step from this place into spirituality is the understanding of this process and a conscious application in everyday life.
Silence and activity
I have to correct myself – when a windsurfer finds this place (and he finds it each time he successfully glides with his feet in the straps – that means often), he is already inside the area of life I consider to be spiritual!
Screams and shouts are common among windsurfers in action. They feel a concentrated bliss and can no longer keep it inside!
The reason for the ‘concentrated bliss’ is 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 sports 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 most of his career ‘in the zone.’ Marathon runners often report similar experiences. I believe that windsurfers experience this almost whenever in water and 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’. 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 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, the 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 windsurfers are not aware of this. They don’t even think about it. They simply enjoy 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, I feel that way in 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.
So far, I was writing about goals and achievements 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 it 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 or 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 a 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 to balance on the board, slowly moving through the water. You learn to spin with and against the wind and 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 onshore, 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 moved through the water. But, since I had to stand at the end, the board started sinking and I was in the water. It was just not working. You can put your feet in the straps only when the board is planning. The resistance becomes strong enough so that you are moving backward on the board doesn’t cause it to sink. Moreover, this position in planning, 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??? 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. Then, 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 control over your board!
All the procedures applied until now have been designed for you to maintain balance with the board and the sail consciously. Even the above-described procedure of getting your feet into the straps is like that. You are planning, hanging by the harness, moving your feet, putting one leg into the strap…everything is under control. You can feel the pressure, push back, and everything is 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, and you can’t decide to do it. You have fallen too many times not to know how bad it is. The board is planning, 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.
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 foot 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. Significantly, you have to learn each detail with time. Balance in windsurfing is dynamic. If you lift your leg, loosen the sail, or lean back or forth too early (or too late), you won’t be able to do the maneuver 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. The most beautiful thing about windsurfing may be that the process never ends! There is always something new to learn.
The comparison with personal growth comes to 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.
A real windsurfer knows how many things 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 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 to create and spread 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 moving towards the goal, not in actually being there. Our life task is to discover life wisdom and principles that successfully govern 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 empty 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 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 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 developing 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 balancing their 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 themself.
- The overall result of hers/his activity is the state of integration of silence and activity, the silent eye of the storm, and the experience of ‘the zone’, which is the basis for developing higher states of consciousness.
The total windsurfing activity is a never-ending learning process, perfect in every moment.
One cannot wish for anything better. Healthy, refreshing physical activity that works very positively on our spiritual development! Because of that, it’s not surprising that anyone can practice windsurfing, from small children to older 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 with her ten years older husband. Two more lessons from windsurfing: nothing is impossible and it’s never too late!
Maybe someday, someone will open 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!