Life is a wave: surf it elegantly, or cling to flotsam?

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Change is the only constant.

Nothing stays the same. Nothing lasts. Nothing is guaranteed.

The world—by which I mean the body; mind; emotions; senses; desires; atmosphere; season; environment; climate; people; economy; society; the family; the earth—the whole world—is constantly changing.

Change is very simply the nature of the world we live in. The universe is expanding, and we have learnt to think of ourselves as a static point within a changing world, but what is that static point really?

We are also changing all the time. Every cell in the body, right now, as you sit reading this, is either regenerating or decaying. No single cell, no single part of your body, will be the same now as it was when you began reading this sentence!

It’s almost as if we are riding on a wave of  change. Can you feel it?

There is a point of stillness—a static point within all the movement – but it’s not what most people think it is. It’s not the human being that we think we are, that we associate ourselves with, that’s constant.

It’s the awareness behind the human experience that remains unchanged, and untouched by the world.

This human life is a wave that we ride for a short while. The more we allow ourselves to be aware of that, the easier our lives become. Because whether we like it or not, the wave rises and falls. Whether we like it or not, the world around us changes, unpredictably, relentlessly, inevitably. How we accept that change; how we surrender to it; and how we learn to love it as part of the nature of this life, depends entirely on what we cling to.

We are each of us riding the wave of our life, in an ocean of unpredictable, inevitable change. Most of us cling to the belief that we are the body; or that we are the mind; that we are our work; or that we are our personality. If so, at some point that little ‘life-raft’ that we cling to will disintegrate, and we will be left all alone with the realization that the wave is all there is. Then, we either surrender and go with the flow, or we start looking desperately for something else to cling to!

Our suffering is the result of our clinging – and life brings us the perfect lessons that we need to stop clinging! I don’t know why, but it seems that life itself is a lesson in detachment. Sometimes it can seem very harsh, but that’s usually because there’s simply something we don’t want to let go of !

In the Bhagavad Gita, it is written: “Yoga is skill in action”. I believe that surfing elegantly over the wave of life, without attachment, without clinging, is skill in action; the ultimate yoga.

I’d love to know what you think.

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Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston has been practising personal development—necessity being the Mother of invention—since he was about six years old. He’s been teaching and sharing what he’s learnt along the way for a couple of decades. His main thing is Heart of Tribe retreats—whose very purpose is to help you fall back in love with life, no less. Leading these retreats alongside his woman Kara-Leah Grant—also an elephant journal writer (that’s how they met!)—they combine a deep well of lineage-based yoga teaching experience, with expertise in healing trauma and various other methods of personal development. Ben also works with clients one-on-one via Skype, writes, makes videos from time to time, and is passionate about parenting.
He lives in an intentional, tribal community in the hills of Croatia, where you might find him gardening barefoot and talking to the rocks. Connect with Ben on Facebook or YouTube or check out his website for more info.

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anonymous Jul 28, 2012 9:18pm

love your posts.

anonymous Apr 3, 2011 7:31am

Wow, I see this was first posted almost 8 months ago. Well, this morning it was at the top of my news feed. I lost my dad less than a week ago. Thank you Ben for sharing. Thank you Bob for the poem. Thank you God for making sure I saw it just when I needed it most.

    anonymous Apr 3, 2011 8:47am

    And thank you Lela for allowing yourself to be open at a difficult time. That's elegant surfing indeed 😉
    Love, Ben

anonymous Aug 27, 2010 2:22am

Hi Bob, I didn’t know. But the poem is beautiful; thank you for sharing it here.
Love, Ben

Bob Weisenberg Aug 26, 2010 10:27pm

Beautifully written, Ben.

As you probably already know, I love this wave analogy and chose it for the cover of my eBook and Website Here's a poem from there that echoes what you wrote above:

Like Waves or Ocean?

It’s true
We are like waves in the ocean
We are more truly the ocean than the wave.

But what if there were a wave that lasted 70 years
And was conscious and could interact with other waves
And could sing and dance and create new waves
Before ultimately merging back into the infinite ocean?

We would be in awe of those waves
We would flock to see those waves
We would rejoice in their very existence
And our ability to perceive them
Until they eventually returned
To their true eternal ocean selves.

Bob Weisenberg

anonymous Aug 24, 2010 9:22am

loved this. Thank you! 🙂

anonymous Aug 24, 2010 7:31am

Ben- Thank you so much, and yes its raptured…not ruptured 🙂

anonymous Aug 24, 2010 5:34am

I think I'll make "surfing" my new mantra. Thanks, Ben!

    anonymous Aug 25, 2010 5:01pm

    Surfing surfing surfing….

anonymous Aug 23, 2010 6:00pm

i'm thinking of taking up surfing just now.

Ben Ralston Aug 23, 2010 2:28pm

Via Facebook:

Norma Iris Rivera-Diaz:

Thank you Ben. A delightful reminder for me today.

Barbara Marion Krieg-Kitzis:

I am now going through another ( I say another ) big change in my life, and this article does help me to cherish my understanding of the impermanence of it all… the visual of surfing and finding joy on the ride in is so much more delightful than the idea of clinging to whatever floats.. I say this since it wasn’t long ago that I fell out of a canoe and held on with all of my might to the dock even though I had a life vest on.. I want to learn to surf the waves of change and enjoy my life and what it has to offer in the here and now… thank you Ben…..

anonymous Aug 23, 2010 2:13pm

Namaste Ben. You always speak right to my heart!

    anonymous Aug 24, 2010 3:18am

    How lovely! The only place worth speaking to really…

anonymous Aug 23, 2010 2:04pm

Ahh…Ben thank you for this reminder! Namaste…all is well, Iris

anonymous Aug 23, 2010 12:56pm

This is so true!!!! My father was a pentecostal minister and I was taught from an early age that at any moment the world was going to end or that the "good" christian people would be whisked away in the rapture.. I learned to cling to everything vehemently because at any moment it/they might be gone ( i.e. children, husbands, friends, etc). It has taken me 43 years and the loss of my parents to have the strength to look outside of the box. With my new view I have been given wings to ride the waves of life and accept change. They say "if it doesn't kill you then it makes you stronger", well losing my parents just about killed me because I was programmed to cling to them so strongly.

Ben Ralston Aug 24, 2010 2:09am

Hi Tracey, thanks for sharing your interesting story.

I believe the ‘rapture’ is another term for enlightenment – which is really just a different state of awareness. I don’t that anyone ‘goes’ anywhere when they get ‘raptured’ (please don’t misread that as ruptured!)…

It’s absolutely true – stay limber, float, etc… but also realize that when life’s impacts come, they are only devastating because we are ‘clinging’ to something. So actually, the devastation (suffering) serves a beautiful purpose: it makes us let go of the attachment, and therefore makes us stronger, and more in tune with reality. Because in reality nothing outside of our awareness is absolute and real.

I hope you follow… with love, Ben