Why Yoga, Meditation, Surfing, Travelling or Following a Spiritual Path doesn’t make you a Hippie, but someone in the state of a major awakening.
I think I essentially started my spiritual path when I was seventeen.
The thing was, back then I didn’t even know how to begin to articulate what this thing was burning in my gut. These strong feelings, this incessant desire to figure life out. I didn’t even know where to begin my search for information, for resources, or for peers to discuss it with. I had no name to put to this thing and for a time there I thought I was going crazy. I thought a lot about the suffering of others and constantly tried to work out how it could be a beautiful world when some suffered and others didn’t, seemingly by sheer luck.
But I also thought a lot about the beautiful things too, and wondered why certain things had such a profound effect on me, but also, why these moments were always so brief.
For example, why, sometimes, swimming in the ocean late afternoon, would I see something as simple as a strip of sunlight hit a wave in a certain way and feel such a surge of strong, thick euphoria? Where there was no concept of time, no idea of then and now or the past and the present, it was just completely still for a few seconds and it felt like my chest was about to implode?
Why, sometimes, I could have a conversation with someone and it would feel like an unbreakable passage had opened between our minds and hearts, where the conversation was no longer words exchanged between two people but a fluid exchange of pure energy?
What were these trippy moments in time? Could they be trusted? Where did they come from?
I wanted to understand these weird moments. I also wanted more of them.
The word “happiness” would be seen to articulate these flashes marvellously, but it didn’t seem to do it justice. This wasn’t happiness that I disappeared to sometimes, but a strong, intense, clear-skied state of being that felt so good I almost couldn’t bear it.
I decided “happiness” as a description wasn’t enough for me. I’d felt happy before plenty. Excited the night before my birthday, giddy before a date. This was something different. So warm and strong it almost roared in my ears when it paid a visit. I wanted more, so I set about trying to find more of it. I tried a lot of things. Buying pretty things. Achieving things that I knew would make me look “successful” to other people. Alcohol, casual sex, smoking, all that. The thing I soon learnt about these things was the difference in the high it gave me, compared to those weird moments I experienced when I was younger. The high was there, sure, but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t rich and powerful and strong. It didn’t make me feel good down to my very bones. It wasn’t the truth, but then again it never claimed to be. These highs felt tinny and left an air of stale melancholy when they evaporated. I’m a person who likes instant gratification. I don’t like waiting. But I knew even as I was immersing myself in these highs that they weren’t the path to the place I wanted to be.
So gave up putting the pressure on these human vices to bring me to that euphoric little bubble, threw my hands up and asked the universe for help instead. I’d later learn that’s called manifestation; somehow, you set off a signal that puts yourself out there, that in turn attracts the same energy toward you. You set an intention or a question out into the universe, and subconsciously you start to alter things to bring you closer to that path. And when you do this – sometimes it’s a trickle, sometimes it’s a tidal wave- but when you do this, the answers do come in whatever form and you are pushed along the path. They come, always, one hundred per cent of the time. I absolutely promise. You just have to have your eyes open and be receptive to whatever forms they come in.
In a few different shapes and forms here are the things that came back into my life: my spiritual path, which I am now on with more commitment, determination and love than ever before, surfing, travel, and yoga.
Through my spiritual study I came to understand those weird flashes of intense euphoria were moments of accidental meditation, spiritual rituals, surfing, yoga, all of that, are not the thing. They’re not the endpoint. They’re just the best portals, to me, that bring me toward my raw inherent self, God, and the truth and perfection of the whole system.
There’s this poem by Hafiz that goes “God and I have become like two giant fat people living in a tiny boat. We keep bumping into each other and laughing.”
These actions and rituals were the things that rocked the boat and kept knocking me against God. Drinking, smoking, consuming, achieving for the sake of achieving, doesn’t. I don’t know if the other things do work because when i’m in the water or on the mat it’s just me and my own subconscious, or the scenery is pretty, or what, but there’s something in these rituals that make the bullshit fall away and leave me as my raw self.
When I say God, I don’t mean any particular God belonging to any particular religion. Sometimes I just use God because I like personifying her; it just makes some things easier to wrap my head around. But sometimes I call her the universe. Sometimes I call her Mother Nature. Some times I call her energy, and sometimes I call her/ him the Buddha. It’s like the Liz Gilbert quote “In the end, what I have come to believe about God is simple. It’s like this—I used to have this really great dog. She came from the pound. She was a mixture of about ten different breeds, but seemed to have inherited the finest features of them all. She was brown. When people asked me, “What kind of dog is that?” I would always give the same answer: “She’s a brown dog.” Similarly, when the question is raised, “What kind of God do you believe in?” my answer is easy: “I believe in a magnificent God”- Liz Gilbert.
I believe in a magnificent God and I think when I saw seventeen and was putting all the pieces together, something I continue to do today, I know i’m not just searching for my own comprehension of the universe but I’m searching for God and the God that resides within me. And at the moment, I am more receptive and open to those experiences when:
- I’m meditating, or observing compassionate or loving exchanges between strangers.
- I’m in the ocean and it’s in between sets and i’m either swimming or on my surfboard and there’s no monkey chatter in my head and i’m my raw, inherent self, free of the rest of the bullshit.
- When i’m studying Buddha and Ram Dass and Timber Hawkeye and Ekhart Tolle and learning how to consolidate in my head that there can be such suffering in the world yet the world is beautiful and perfect.
- When i’m travelling and somewhere completely out of my element and doubting everything i’ve ever known and a voice from somewhere booms “I am here, and I will never leave you. You are safe and you’re going to be okay. And even if you’re not okay, you’ll be okay, because this is all just an illusion anyway.”
- And i’ve had similar experiences like this with yoga too. Though i’m only just beginning on this one, I have had experiences on the mat. Experiences with a combination of love and strength and stillness and unyielding clarity.
I write this because I think a lot of people look at the surfers, travellers, yogis, as a bit of a stereotype, or maybe as a face, or a pose, or a Hippie ideal. Consumerism has made a lot of people drawn to this aesthetic, wanting to be the girl with expensive yoga pants and the pretty printed meditation rug and the bikini shot laying on a board out in the surf…
But truly we found ourselves in this boat not to appear as anything. We’ve been pulled towards those practices because this is the best way to get to where we want to be, which is home.
We do it for those brief and glorious moments where everything suddenly connects.
For those moments where we get to feel like we are being part of something greater than ourselves.