Having lived for a time in Australia, I join many others in using surfing as a good metaphor for life. Simply put, everyone’s ego will sit waiting in the water for the perfect wave so that they can show everyone on shore how good a surfer they are. But the point was never to be impressive to others. They weren’t watching anyway so the real point for everyone was to surf. Life itself has never been a competition.
This means many people spend a lifetime preventing their spirit from surfing anything that looks fun. Instead, our egos ignore our personal enjoyment in favour of paddling after perfect-looking waves, always seeking better in both the ride and our opportunities to look impressive to other surfers and watchers on shore.
Even if they were watching and were impressed, that’s an experience that happens inside their consciousness not ours. We don’t experience that, they do. So that’s a nonsensical reason for us to do something.
We can’t even be sure they would be paying attention to us while we were busy being impressive. As noted earlier, we can be pretty sure they weren’t, because they’re an ego just like we are. So they’re doing the very same thing we are—they’re sitting on their surfboards constantly there trying to figure out if they’re being impressive to us!
When the sun starts to set on our life we start to realize that we’re only on this beach for one big long day. And we realize that means there are only so many waves left. Our fellow surfers and people on the beach have all constantly rotated for our entire life, so there was never a way to be impressive to them anyway. There never was an audience. It never was a show. Again, everyone was just supposed to surf.
Say yes to life. Jump on, be daring and see where it takes you. People’s word-based judgments of you are truly meaningless because they do not change the waves —the worst they can do is push you off your surfboard for a time.
If we get pushed in the water by experience it’s up to us if we choose to volunteer for unhelpful thinking by choosing to place value on their judgments. Certainly if we encounter a happy surfer with good advice, it’s worth it to pay attention. But we shouldn’t mistake others judgments of our life as any indication of its actual value. We can feel that.
The only adjudicator of your life is us. The only thing that matters is if we enjoyed our experience of surfing. No opinion can take that away from us unless we choose to adopt it by thinking it to ourselves —and I can’t imagine why any of us would want to think thoughts that are painful to us when they have no value.
Let’s forget being impressive. Let’s be childish and free. It does not matter how many times we fall in. Our job is only to climb back on and move toward excitement and joy. There are fewer hours in the day than we realize.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.