In 2004, I took my very first surfing lesson in Maui. (I had traveled there for a friend’s wedding and surfing lessons were part of the extensive guest itinerary.) While I don’t remember who surfed with me that day, I distinctly remember that once I got up on the surfboard, I was only able to rise up onto my knees. And that was good enough for me.
Little did I know that I would be reminded of that surfing lesson seven years later, after attending a workshop at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. The workshop, called “The One Thing Holding You Back: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Connection,” was led by the wonderfully hilarious and dynamic Raphael Cushnir.
During the workshop, Raphael guided us through a dance (both figuratively and literally) as he gave us the tools necessary to address what we’d been resisting for months, years… maybe even a lifetime.
In his Oprah magazine article entitled, “Two Questions That Could Change Your Life,” Raphael writes:
“Resistance is like stepping on a hose with all our might and commanding the water to flow. But if we can simply step off the hose and allow the water of our reactions to flow through us, we eventually arrive at a state of expansion…In an expanded state, we’re freer, more creative, and better able to break through barriers.”
But how do we expand? First, Raphael asked us to identify something from our past or present that caused us anguish. Then, he asked us two vital questions:
1. What is happening [in the body] right now?
2. Can you be with it?
The idea is to identify the physical manifestation of the emotional blockage. In doing so, we start to peel back the layers of pain until we get to the very core of the issue.
For example, think about something in your life that is unsettling to you (e.g., you hate your job, your partner just left you). Then go directly to the body and locate where you’re feeling it in the body (e.g., the throat, the chest). Once you find the area of tightness, ask yourself if you can be with that –and only that– sensation.
In other words, can you surf through that pain?
What’s perhaps most remarkable about Raphael’s questions is the sudden realization that they are common sense. Yet we can spend a lifetime ignoring our common sense by struggling to figure out the “Why?” of the situation. “Why can’t my life work out the way I want it to?!” When we are suffering, we become so trapped and wrapped up in our own mind that we forget entirely about what’s going on in our body. By making the mind-body connection, and by targeting one thing at a time, stuck emotions can become unstuck. It’s that simple.
We can breathe, open up our arms, and surf. And unlike my last surfing experience, staying on my knees just isn’t good enough for me anymore. I’ll be getting up on both feet now.