Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Learn Something New

Over the past months I've watched as two forty-something
women have become enthralled with surfing.  I've known
both these women for years.  We walk our dogs together on
the beach almost every day.  About 3 months ago they both
commented about how surfing and stand up paddleboarding
looked fun.  As the weather and water warmed so did their

About a month ago they rented an SUP and took it in the ocean
on a warm flat day.  It was harder than they'd expected but it did
not diminish their desire or interest.  They approached a neighbor
who they knew has surfed for years.  Would he be willing to teach
them to surf?  Of course they had no idea that their teacher
was quite an icon.  He'd lived in Hawaii at V land, was amongst
the folks who named Freddieland, roomed with Billy Hamilton
and Phil Irons and locally was called Pipey for his ability to
tube ride.  But to him teaching these 40 something moms
sounded like a fun thing to do.

Today I watched as he pushed them into tiny waves.  The smiles
on everyone's faces were infectious. I doubt if he smiled that much
in Hawaii back in the day.  I know they will all be back tomorrow.

Research on aging suggests that we all should take up something
new as we age.  Learn to do something we've never done.  Creating
new neural pathways through the brain helps keep our brains
and our minds alive and sharp.  Don't just sit back as you age.  Feel
the joy of being a novice.  Learn something new!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Resources are finite

Each morning as I walk along the beach I find
plastic.  Plastic bottle caps, water bottles, kids
beach toys, bags are, unfortunately more common
than unusual shells or sharks teeth. They are abundant.

Oil, we are told, is a finite resource yet we have those
among us who believe that there are infinite amounts
of oil under the sea.

Sand is a precious resource yet we have those who
want to dredge it from the ocean floor and place it
on the beach to protect a few homes.  The reefs that
they are burying are also a precious finite resource.
But some don't seem to care.

On a more personal level, what resources do you
squander or hold dear?  Health is one of the most 
precious resources we have.  Do you protect your
health by exercising, eating right, getting enough
sleep or do you ignore the value of your health.
How about time? Some never seem to have enough
yet think they have plenty of time.  A client of mine
thinks that the dishes in the sink must be cleaned
before she can meditate or exercise.  No surprise
she never has enough time for the things that she 
"wants" to do because she feels compelled to do
things she "has to do" like dusting the bookshelf.

Resources be they personal or planetary are finite.
How can we avoid squandering them?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Happiness and Making a Difference

Martin Seligman, the noted psychologist, and some would 
say father of positive psychology, has a great lecture on  Dr. Seligman talks about how to achieve 
happiness.  One of the ingredients is helping and making
a difference by what you do.  

Today I sure felt great happiness.  I got some pleasure by
spending 3 hours on my SUP in smallish, knee to waist high
surf.  I felt as if I made a difference as a volunteer in a 
program that the Jersey Shore Chapter of Surfrider began
6 years ago in Asbury Park NJ.  Today was Asbury Family
Day at the Beach.  

This program is aimed at local Asbury Park kids and 
families most of whom are relatively poor  and minority.
It might sound surprising that people can grow up living a
mile or two from the beach and never experience it.  Hard to 
imagine for a surfer, but a very real fact of life.  For many
years people of color and minorities were discouraged from 
going to the beach.  They weren't really welcomed.  

Imagine the joy of seeing for the first time in your life
a pod of dolphins.  For scores of people today was their
first time.  Imagine exploring the tide line to find creatures
like crabs, mussels, jellyfish and shells for the first time.
Imagine being pushed into a wave and riding your first wave.
That's what Asbury Park Family Day at the Beach is all about.
That's the difference between pleasure and happiness.  

Check out the Seligman lecture on  See if you can
find happiness in your life.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Choices and consequences

This morning as the sun rose I was checking the
waves with my dog and a good friend.  As the
2 of us contemplated the waist to stomach high
clean, glassy line-up a neighbor pulled up.  Bob
and I were born a few days apart so in many ways
we have much in common.  One major difference
however were a few key choices we made in our lives.

As I prepared for a session Bob headed to the train
station for his 1 1/2 hour trip to the city to go to work.
You could tell from the look in his eyes and the brief
comments he made that he wished he were us.  

Ron, another dear friend, used to ride the train.  One
day he, like Bob, left the early morning surf check to
make the train.  He wore an expensive suit and drove 
a very expensive car at the time.  Ron decided to make
a change, take a risk and opt for a lifestyle closer to his
heart and passion.  It was tough at first for him to
watch his commuting buddies in their expensive
cars and leather brief cases as he struggled to start
a new business.   Now he wears shorts to work, drive
a car filled with sand, and  surfs the DP whenever there
are waves.  

Lifestyle choices confront us all.  What choices are you
making?  John Lennon once wrote, "Life is what happens
to us when we're busy making other plans".  Choices aren't
easy but we have to deal with their consequences.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Keep it simple

One of the things I love about surfing
is the simplicity.  All you need is a board,
a wave, a wetsuit or boardshorts, and time.
Not a lot of fancy dodads.  Not a lot of
technology.  I often look at windsurfers
or kite surfers or divers and think that
it looks like fun but there is so much 
equipment involved, so many moving parts,
so much to coordinate and set up.  

Keeping life simple is another thing I love.
It makes me feel better.  Many of the folks
I see in my office are stressed beyond belief
because their lives are too complicated.  They
never seem to consider the price we pay for
moving from simplicity.  

Sure it's great to have a quiver but there is some
peace in not having to choose which board to ride
today.  I'm not sure which surf film it is where I
saw Joel Tudor saying the same thing.  He had a
car full of boards and stressed about which one he
should be riding.

Try to find out where simplifying your life can make
it easier.  It might have you thinning your quiver and
making your choices not so overwhelming.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What have you been doing for 45 years?

Michael Tomson asked that question in the film "Bustin Down the Door".
How many things in your life do you feel passionate about? How many
of your interests span a lifetime?

I've found in my practice that virtually all people who are depressed have never
been passionate about a hobby.  Recent research suggests that the more time
people spend in nature the greater their sense of well-being.  Perhaps that's why
surfing helps keep me more balanced.  I still can't wait to get up in the morning
when I think there will be waves.  I'm still stoked!  I love being in the water and
connecting with the life in the ocean.  Mike Orbach, Ph.D. former director of
the Duke University Marine Lab and former Surfrider Board Chairman, often
speaks about the perspective from out in the lineup.  We see things from a different
vantage point looking inward at the shoreline. Perhaps the normal stresses of life
appear different from the water looking from a distance.

I've been surfing for a bit over 45 years to answer Michael Tomson's question.
It gives me a great deal.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Family, tribe, and simplicity

Last night I was part of a wonderful surf event.  Shaun Tomson and
Rabbit Bartholomew were in Asbury Park to show 'Bustin Down the
Door".  Their movie was the 1st of a double feature that included "Surfwise"
the story of the Paskowitz family.  Together they showed 2 distinct yet similar
sides of "our tribe".

Seeing surf related movies in a theatre, on a big screen is not as common 
on the east coast as it is in California.  That results in the movie being a
"gathering of the tribe".  It was very cool to see fathers, now in their 40's or
50's with their sons and daughters, gathering to see their heros.  I can't
begin to tell you how many times during the week before the showing that
people told me that Shaun and Rabbit were their heros when they were groms.
Watching their children see their stoke was quite special.  It was also amazing
to have the younger surfers, who take the professional surfing and surf industry
sponsors for granted, see how it all began, see how it was done simply for 
passion and a dream. 

Both movies showed the power of love, friendship, commitment, respect, and
family.  They both clearly illustrated that passion and aloha can often give us
much more than money or material things or brash cockiness. Being in the company of Shaun and Rabbit, 2 icons, 2 friends for many many years who have shared both joy and
tragedy, good times and bad meant was instructive.  Seeing the Paskowitz family
come full circle taught an equally important lesson.

There is a poster in my office that I bought in Hawaii many years ago.  It is called
Hawaiian Rules.  One of the rules states that "the best things in life aren't things".
Last night brought that message home to many of the 600 or so tribe members who
were inside the wonderful old Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

You don't know what you've got til it's gone

The title of this blog are words from the Joni Mitchell song "They paved paradise
and put up a parking lot".  Now that in itself is a great subject for a later date.
Yesterday I spent time with 2 friends who have been surfing for many many years.
Both, despite being over 50, are as stoked as ever and still rip.  Strangely
both have, within the past year, undergone surgery to replace a hip.  

I heard a common theme emerge as we spoke.  " You have no idea how much I
missed surfing during the months of rehabilitation. I couldn't wait to get back
in the water. I seem to enjoy surfing even more now than ever."  

There are important lessons here.  Enjoy life, enjoy what you have each day, cherish
the people around you, don't squander away your time.  Chaos theory teaches us that
the only constant is change.  Some changes will be good, others bad yet none will
last forever.  Each of my friends are much better at living in the moment now thanks
to their time out of the water.  I surely benefit from the lessons others have to teach.
Enjoy today!!! Enjoy each session, each wave, each friend, each loved one today because
like the surf...who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Aloha doesn't mean judging

The other day while surfing at my local spot a relative "newcomer" dropped in
on me.  We shared the wave. Rather than get angry at the drop in I decided to
 enjoy watching him on the nose of his board as we rode it together.  There was plenty 
of room on the wave for us both since the surf was playful, in the stomach high range.

The next morning we were again in the lineup together. A friend, and novice
paddler, paddled out on his new SUP.  The surf was smaller than the previous
day but still fun.  The "newcomer" saw the paddler, frowned and made a derogatory
remark about SUP's.  The paddler did not hear "newcomer's" remark.  He happily
paddled through the lineup filled with aloha, wishing everyone he knew a good morning, alerting the crew when he spied a set on the horizon, and paddled away from the main peak.

I looked at "newcomer" and commented that in the water we can make mistakes by
judging people by what they ride.  It's not the surf craft but rather the surfer we should
get to know.

Making snap judgments based only upon external appearance or inaccurate expectations
causes enough stress in the world.  Aloha means not judging.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Watching the sun come up

Today is the 7th day in a row of waves courtesy of Hurricane Bertha.  The tides have been
such that I've been up at 5am and in the water as the sun has been rising out of the Atlantic
for a week now.  What a gift!  The world is pretty quiet - except for a few fellow souls with
coffee mugs in hand, making sure that we can still surf.  My dog Happy, a native of Puerto Rico,
loves getting up and joining me for this sunrise ritual.  We both are grateful for what is, the beauty of the moment, and for the possibilities that await us on this new day. There is a morning prayer in some religion where we each give thanks for waking from the dead and being given another day of life.  It sure is hard to be stressed, anxious or worried at 5am watching a red ball rise out of the ocean, watching waves, and dolphins.  

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Surfing and Life

As a surfer and a psychologist I think that I've got an interesting perspective on how the lessons I've learned in the ocean pertain to living life.  I hope to use this blog to explore, examine, and
share some of those lessons in the hope that it helps you and me.  As someone once said "
how do you know what you are thinking if you can't see it?"