“Don’t be a wuss. I’ll see you in the morning,” she teased the evening before.
It’s a running joke between Christine Hoar and me. You see, last year, on this very same beach in Costa Rica, Christine and I met at the surf bench. Truth is, I already knew who she was. For years, we’d been coming to this same site, hosting our own separate retreats, back to back. Christine, a female Ashtanga yoga teacher: strong, wise, and full of grace – and me, well … we shared the same age, though not at all the same league.
Meeting Christine, finally in person, stirred something within me I couldn’t explain. So I did what I do with every person who inspires me that way – I asked her to be a guest on the Ashtanga Dispatch Podcast. (Apparently my awkward attempt at a friend request.)
Of course, she said, no. First off, she didn’t know what a podcast was and second, she didn’t know me. She was skeptical. Totally understandable.
Luckily Pascale, her partner spoke up: “Don’t be a wuss. Do it.” Christine did. It was wonderful. She touched the lives of countless women. I know because they still write me.
Apparently this was my payback. To surf with her in the morning.
Not exactly the same thing as a podcast. No greater good attached to this one. Plus I was pretty sure I had better things to do on my 50th birthday, such as making my flight later that morning, all in one piece.
Besides, I’d already spent enough time out there on a board to realize – surfing is definitely NOT like riding a bike. And despite working with an amazing teacher, I was still every bit as awkward and clumsy as someone just beginning – and managed to fall more times (and in more ways) than I could count. Waves crashed over me and into me, again and again, as if needing to remind me of just how inept and unworthy I was.
Oh, it’s not that my teacher didn’t try. Right there in the ocean beside me, he directed me every step of the way – letting me know when a wave approached, when to paddle, how to stand – and then each time I fell off, he’d give me good feedback as to where my mistake was.
So really not sure what made me show up that next morning – yet there I was, board in hand. My teacher let me know, wiping the sleep from his eyes: It would be just me this time. On my own. Good luck, he said.
Great. No teacher – and where the heck was Christine??
It surprised me how much heavier my board felt walking the beach alone. Still, I focused my eyes on the ocean, just as my teacher had taught me. With keen interest, I watched the waves and their patterns. I spotted the channel and saw a lull in the waves.
This was my time. I willed myself forward: “Don’t be a wuss. Do it.”
Stepping into the water, I moved beyond the rocks, then lay down on my board and began paddling. I see a set of waves in the distance and almost instinctively, I knew the first few weren’t mine. Again I’m surprised, but this time – happily. The ocean owns my full concentration, with no one beside me to divide my attention, I’m taking it ALL in as I’ve not done before. Though I quickly remind myself, I’m not out here to be a spectator.
The next wave swelled with possibility as did my excitement along with – or was that fear? They sometimes do feel the same. I got myself in position.For just a split second, I wondered how I’d know when it was time for me to stand up. It was a legitimate question because before, my teacher would call out to me the whole time, step by step. It was much safer and easier when I could rely on him. I had only myself now and this made me feel very afraid – and very, very small.
But then I felt it … the momentum. Instinctively, my whole body came alive. I paddled and gathered more speed. Then, as if a hidden force had actively taken over my entirety, without a single thought …
… I STOOD!
No shit! I was standing. I don’t even remember how it happened, but there I was. STILL standing! It’s hard to describe the rush of emotions I rode along with that wave – admittedly, as much of a relief as it was a thrill.
I threw my hands in the air, my fists to the sky – and at that VERY SAME MOMENT, I looked to the shore and saw her. Christine! Instead of getting in the water right away, she stood back watched me ride, throwing me the shaka, echoing my joy in her own.
And Pascale Willi, with a click of her camera, succeeded in immortalizing the moment, its significance I still struggle to put into words. For it really wasn’t just a moment, but a series of such. A string of meaningful coincidences … chance meetings … parallel experiences … all coming together, easy to recognize yet impossible to explain.
Like, WHAT ARE THE CHANCES that I’d begin the second half of my life … on a surfboard … in the middle of the ocean … discovering for the first time – I could stand on my own … I could surf on my own – and yet, I wasn’t alone … but surrounded by Sisters … giving high praise for way more than just “not being a wuss.”
Carl Jung explains this as not chance at all. It’s synchronicity, the coming together of an inner and outer world, where one mirrors the other. And when I look at this photograph, I finally see it. Urged into a vast and infinite ocean where I will always be small and often, afraid – I now venture. And I’m standing. I’m balancing. And willing to ride what comes my way. This marks a new era for me.
“Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see.”
I’m telling you now – this shit happens all the time. To you. To me. But we write it off. Or get sucked into individual moments and miss the bigger picture. It’s easy to do, for sure. They are not always such big and bold experiences – and rarely caught on film. But right now, it’s happening. You reading this email … the knock at the door … a small world connection … a feeling deep down you can’t explain … within these tiny connected moments, great truths are revealed
And like the mystical whispers of a universe, they urge us along on a path we are destined. A reality I’m only now, brave and ready to see.
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