Stab Magazine | The Art Of Losing Your Mind
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The Art Of Losing Your Mind

Surfing is where madness meets meditation.

style // Jan 6, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

I’m sprawled out on a carpeted floor somewhere in North India, eyes closed, surrounded by seven strangers.

One of the strangers is standing. She tiptoes around striking strategically-placed metal bowls with some sort of a mallet, which creates a series of prolonged hummmms that ripple through the room. My only objective for the next 60 minutes, I’m told, is to not think any thoughts. It feels impossible. This is surfing’s fault.

It’s surfing fault because growing up, the vast majority of my friends and family didn’t have passports. Surfing essentially filed my paperwork for me. Pursuing waves was a reason to see the world — or at least those regions well-endowed with swell. But after 20 or so passport stamps all recalling swell chases, strike missions, international moves with surf in mind, the unprecedented concept that one might board an aircraft for reasons unbeknownst to Surfline eventually crossed my mind. Before I knew it, I was “meditating” somewhere in the Himalayas.

Meditation, in its simplest form, is the act of silencing one’s mind. Slipping into a state of non-partial awareness, as if you’re observing consciousness instead of experiencing it. At a deeper level, it’s a tool used to tear apart the layers of your existence, attempt to understand them, and eventually try to reshape them into something better.

Something better.

The town I’m in, Rishikesh, is a hub of self-improvement, posters plastered across the city promising spiritual commodities for nominal fees. Peace, harmony, clarity and bliss can all be yours — if only you register for the class.

In the 1960s, The Beatles came here, became enlightened, and/or got into a fantastic argument with a man named Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who’d publicly boasted that his techniques lead to levitation. Things haven’t changed all that much — I saw a poster advertising a method to permanently avoid death.

They say the practices demand Absolute Belief. The reconfiguration of your entire concept of physiology to adopt the idea that your body contains seven invisible energy centers. That a serpent rests coiled at the base of your spine. Some of this shit makes bible thumping seem tame—ironic, given the last several decade’s Western exodus of organized religion.

Tourists—white ones—most of whom are presumably living in exile from organized religion, buy right into it. Roaming the streets in loose fitting pants and wool scarves, hair in a manicured frizz, their nights spent bouncing from cafe to cafe playing bongo drums.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Though, in a culture centered around everyone’s intrinsicity, it’s strange they’d all have the same very specific taste, dressing like impoverished Nepalese sherpas, banging out horrid music.

But some people really need a change. If through these force-fed practices, they end up feeling better about themselves and the world around them, that is undeniably a very good thing.  

Plus, hidden in the amethyst matrix of ponzi schemes, some of the practices and beliefs have been shown to actually work. Some of it is pseudoscience. Some of it the bastardization of flawed trials. But some of it is real. Stretching your body in yogic positions does, in fact, come with a number of benefits. Quieting your mind through meditation is proven to keep depression and anxiety at bay. There’s something powerful there…

Back in the class, my mind drifts to surfing.

Surfing, much more than lying on a carpeted floor with seven strangers and a Tibetan bowl buzzing in your ear, is a vehicle for silencing your thoughts. With surfing, the process is simple. You expose yourself to the madness of the ocean and naturally meet it with meditative brilliance. You lose your mind for a little while, and it makes you a better person when you come in.

The best part? It doesn’t have to be spiritual — you don’t need to believe in anything in order for it to work. You don’t have to go all-in on some persona, surround your bed with crystals, get a Krishna statue, or go on a never-ending quest accepting yourself while at the same time actively trying to be better. Some people don’t need that. Some people feel fine as they are.  

Considering the new age obsession with ancient Eastern philosophy, I’m grateful for surfing and all the subterranean benefits that come with it.

And, at a certain point, I realize that I’m not just observing this thought — I’m experiencing it. I’m enjoying the experience, too. Consciousness, like the ocean, can be volatile, confusing, painful and dangerous. But, somehow, it’s a lot more fun to experience it than it is to observe.

Maybe that’s my problem with meditation after all.

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