"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like." - Lao Tzu
"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future." - John F. Kennedy
When I reflect on the idea of change and how it effects people I often come back to surfing and skiing. In both of these sports your ability to stay relaxed and to perceive the reality of the environment is the difference between enjoyment and frustration, and perhaps even suffering. Life itself has much in common with these two sports endeavors. It may also be why many proponents of skiing and surfing treat it more like a life philosophy rather than merely a sport activity.
In fact, we can learn quite a lot about effective ways to live from these sports from the novice to expert levels.
Balance is dynamic – It becomes obvious very quickly on skis or on a surf board. Keeping your balance is tricky because you are no longer anchored to the ground. You find yourself falling again and again. Sometimes painfully. Yet soon you begin to find that your balance is a process that is always in motion. Soon, the adjustments you make to keep your balance become part of the enjoyment of the activity.
It’s about harmony – Your success is no longer exclusively about you, it is now about the combination of you and the ocean or you and the slopes and snow. You start to look at the environment in both big and small ways. You realize that you must “feel” what is happening around you to capture this synthesis of global and local details. Misread the wave and it clobbers you. Misread the asymmetry of the moguls and you plow straight into a wall of snow. Practitioners of these sports often report that this harmony with the natural environment is what lets them both excel at the sport and enjoy it to the maximum.
Choosing to adapt – Have you ever seen the ocean waves go flat? Have you been on the mountain when the rain hits? When the big changes come you still have a choice. At some level your choice is always about how you respond to changes. When we have expectations about what we want that are not flexible or adaptable we set ourselves up for frustration and suffering. Yelling at the ocean for the waves to come is not very effective. But some realize that the choices we have let us find peace in the middle of unexpected change. The surfers can rest on their boards and enjoy the stillness while they feel the more subtle movements of the water. The skiers can go higher up the mountain to challenge themselves in new ways or head down to the lodge and rest tired muscles in preparation for the next day. What was their experience? It has more to do with how they choose to adapt to change than the change itself.
This week take a close look at how you choose to adapt to change, where you find your balance, and what level of harmony you feel with your environment.