Observing them from afar, I figured everyone who made tow-in surfing their vocation would be filled with lots of laid back energy, effortlessly staying in a continual Zen state. So I was surprised to read a recent blurb about the world’s top female surfer Maya Gabeira who was sharing two important lessons on how to simplify our focus and learn to stay in the moment.
Gabeira holds the record for the biggest wave ever surfed by a woman, 45 feet (to get an idea of what she’s up against, check out her skill in these photos. Because of the danger inherent in the sport, being in the moment is paramount. But out of the water, Gabeira alludes to the fact that she struggles with what most of us do; how to manage overwhelming and distressing feelings without either pushing them away or criticizing ourselves for them. “When you’re scared and uncomfortable, you can allow yourself not to do anything but sit there and feel that sensation,” she says, “and you will go past it. The fear kind of mellows out, and what you’re left with is more confidence.” This skill is called mindfulness (www.mindfulness.com) and it means paying attention on purpose to the present moment, bringing acceptance and not judgment to whatever feelings you are experiencing. Mindfulness has been strongly linked to the reduction of anxiety and depression in clinical trials, promoting the idea that you can learn new habits that lead to a more centered and peaceful mood (if you are struggling with depression,check out this book about mindfulness which has lots of great research behind its effectiveness.
She also acknowledged that she used to “want to be everywhere at all times” which just made her feel more scattered. In modern life we all struggle with being spread too thin, allowing our attentions and efforts to be diluted by trying to do too much. Gabeira concluded, “now I realize that I just have to be ready for the biggest swells, as healthy and strong as possible for when the conditions are right.” Even if we never venture out into the big water, we can steal a little of her wisdom to live more peacefully here on land.