Monday, February 28, 2011

Rolling with Resistance

Brian and I have been traveling for over two months now. It feels longer than that. Most every day feels rich and full and different. I still feel like this experience is too good to be true, but I think recently I had a breakthrough of sorts.

Lately we have been spending a lot of time in the ocean, and have been body surfing a lot. Most recently at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Manly Beach outside of Sydney and Newcastle beach in Newcastle. Brian is brilliant at this and a good teacher. I love watching him happily play in the waves for hours, come back to our spot on the beach and tell me he is going back in for more. I love seeing the joy in his eyes.

When I was a kid, my family would go to the beach almost every fall in Mexico and sometimes go to the beach in San Diego. I LOVED being in that water. I can remember swimming and body surfing for hours catching wave after wave, with my dad particularly. He is an excellent body surfer too. I was fearless, strong and graceful in the water, in my mind.

On this trip, I have noticed that I feel a bit more anxious in the water than I ever have. I haven’t been able to let go of stories of stinging jellyfish, deadly riptides and sharks in Australian waters. I have been a bit jumpy, a bit anxious.

I think deep down I am waiting for a disaster to strike. Maybe it is that Brian and I could have easily been in the massive earthquake last week in Christchurch. Or maybe it is the stories I am reading every day in the papers about Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, etc. Sometimes our world seems to hang together by a thread.

Or maybe it is my own limiting belief that we cannot take this amazing trip and have this experience without some catastrophe befalling us. How can two people so in love and so blessed deserve to live happy long lives together? Surely we must pay for our blessings. Is that a sick mentality? I think so. Why am I having such trouble giving in to all of this? Why are these fears bubbling up inside of me?

So yesterday Brian and I went swimming in the morning at Newcastle beach. The current was quite strong and the waves powerful. Even so, I was trying to let go and enjoy the swimming with everyone else in the water. There were a couple of huge waves that I tried to go for, but I was a little hesitant so my timing was terrible and I was picked up and smashed onto the ocean floor, swallowing a bunch of sea water and skinning my knees on the sandy bottom. I left the water and watched Brian successfully catch wave after wave from the shore.

Later in the afternoon, we walked to another beach at around 5 PM. Along the walk the sky started turning beautiful shades of pink and powder blue. We passed this large public saltwater pool next to the ocean. I loved seeing the children play in it and thought, what a good idea! Now parents don’t have to worry about their children being carried out to sea! We got to our beach and there weren’t too many folks swimming. The waves looked straight and a nice size and we jumped in. The cool water was so soothing and the sky was just beautiful. I felt so at peace. We again tried to catch some waves and I again had some near misses. Brian said, “I think you don’t want to catch a wave.” I was aghast; of course I wanted to catch a wave! But then I thought about it. And then I noticed the current wasn’t so strong where we were and the waves were nice. And there were a lot of young girls around us laughing and playing. And the sky was so beautiful and the water so lovely and Brian’s smile so big. So that next wave, I let go and really went with it. Strong, graceful and smooth. And I rode almost all the way into shore. It was exhilarating. After that I felt so playful in the water. Free, unencumbered, childlike. I did flips, handstands, and cartwheels. It felt incredible.

So I think I am moving through resistance into acceptance. And it is a relief. And I know this will be a challenge for me my whole life, but I am grateful for the times when I feel like I can dominate my fears. The hard part is, I never thought I would get more afraid as I got older. I don’t know why, but I just thought I would get more and more enlightened and fear would become less of a player in my scope of experience. My family has in the past described me as fearless, and I think I internalized that deeply. I never imagined I would have to manage fear in the way I do now. And in this example you might say that I had a right to be afraid of the ocean, that there ARE deadly riptides and jellyfish and so on, but the thing is, I know in the past it would not have fazed me as much. Something is different inside of me that I am trying to sort out. I am making a little progress, which makes me happy.

Thanks for sharing my little victory with me :)

Newcastle Beach


  1. Your journey, spiritual and otherwise is inspiring. I think a some fear is important but it can develop an irrational life of its own and become paralyzing if we don't stop and pay attention like you do in this post. The comment about not really wanting to catch the wave hit home. I'm reminded of a book I read a long time ago that helped me. It's still around "Love is letting go of fear."

  2. I've totally felt this way about a lot of things--like flying, the ocean, going to the doctor. I feel way more mortal now.

  3. Steve's right, Katie. How many times have you heard "young and foolish or fearless," choose your adjective. Have you heard "Young and careful?" Doesn't happen. The first time I flew in a jet plane, I remember thinking as we sped down the runway, if this plane crashes now, it was worth it; the feeling of power was phenomenal. Now, I avoid most things that present a danger to life even flying. (I know, the statistics are . . . bla bla bla.) In my view, right or wrong, most people grow more cautious as they grow older and that's the normal process in life. In a sense, a sign of maturity. To put it another way, the older one gets (and perhaps the more experiences one has had), the more precious life becomes. But I don't think about it to much; just make the best of each day. I also recognize that some need to live on the edge throughout their lives; yours truly aint one of them!

  4. This post really hit home with me Katie. I remember feeling those very same things every day of the year Eric and I lived in Bangkok.

    When you said: "I think deep down I am waiting for a disaster to strike," that is a common feeling to have while traveling, especially traveling to cultures whose safety regulations are not comparable to the ones we have in the US. I grew to admire the Thais for their fearlessness, but I realized that they knew nothing else and had no choice but to continue to live the way they were. It made me feel like a bit of an intruder, but I learned how to slow my mind and accept my fate.

    Even after coming home I realize that I worry more than I did before I left but I think that's because it means I learned something and value life more for it.

    Here's to you and Brian on you continued adventure through growth! (and SE Asia!)