Extreme Teachings

Working on my form.

The sound of the wind blowing through the palms outside my window tells me it’s another great day out there to play at my newest sport. We’re smack dab in the middle of Winder (my name for the season that falls between November and March here on the East Cape) and after approximately 20 sessions spread out over two seasons, I no longer feel like I must add the caveat “I’m just learning” when I say I kitesurf.

Kitesurfing is definitely an extreme sport. As anyone who’s tried it will tell you, it’s got a very steep learning curve and if you don’t think it deserves to be called “extreme” perhaps you need to read my post Welcome to my Kitemare.

I’ve always shied away from equipment intensive sports because of the associated expense, repairs and technical knowledge required. However, a couple of years ago when I started to spend a lot of time on the North Shore of Maui  – note: there are more windy days on Maui than any other place on Earth with the exception of Antarctica – I decided it was time to reevaluate that stance. I started out with one kite, one board, a harness to connect me to the bar and the necessary safety gear. Having only one kite meant I could only go out when wind speeds were within a specific range before I could head out. This reduced the number of days I could kite, slowing down my progress. Realistically, you need several different kites of differing sizes to cover the range of potential wind speeds you may encounter. Then there is the bar used to steer the kite – there are different sizes and styles depending on the kite you’re flying.  Safety gear includes a helmet, a leash and an impact vest.

I was debating recently whether I needed to keep wearing a helmet because my board had yet to hit me in the head despite some pretty impressive wipe outs, when it did just that. It hit me hard enough that it took a chunk out of my helmet. From there it ricocheted into my right thumb leaving an inch long gash that weeks later is still healing. That relieved me of any doubt regarding the need for a helmet.

Early on I also questioned how badly I needed to wear an impact vest. These are the vests that guys like Laird Hamilton wear when they surf the big waves at Pe’ahi and Mavericks.  Contrary to popular belief, they offer minimal floatation, but act like a flack jacket, protecting the wearer from bruising and breaks that would otherwise result from the force of impact during a high speed crash. I laughed to myself when my kiting instructor recommended I buy one, figuring there was no way I actually needed that kind of protection. “Does he think I’m crazy? I’m not going to go that fast,” went through my mind. Turns out I have gone that fast. More than once.

The first time it happened I was still hanging out at the lower end of the learning curve. I was out with my nine meter kite on a day when I should have taken out the 7.5 meter. This was also before I figured out that conditions tend to be fairly gusty in front of my house (I now head further North where winds are steady).  So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what ended up happening:

overpowered + gusty = epic wipe out

One moment I was up and running, the next I was lying in the water, dazed and in pain. I felt like I’d been run over.  Like a rag doll that had just been shook by a large dog. I began a mental body scan to assess the damage. My ribs were screaming at me, my left hip bone felt like there was a knife sticking into it, my ears were ringing, my eyes stung from hitting the water so fast I didn’t have time to close them before impact, and my ankles felt like the tendons holding them together had undergone a serious stress test.  My heart was racing and my lungs? Well, they were having trouble re-inflating.  I managed to choke down a few painful gasps of air and lay there trying to figure out what had gone wrong while the kite pulled me steadily and quickly downwind. That’s when I noticed my impact vest – it was lying in the water above my head, attached to me only by my shoulders.  With horror I realized that the force of the impact of my wipeout had exploded the heavy duty zipper and ripped the vest from my body. “That explains why my ribs hurt,” I reasoned, imagining what it might feel like to try to swim the half mile to shore with multiple fractured ribs. It was in that moment of clarity that I realized, “I guess I need this vest after all.” Ever since then when I zip the vest on, my mind flashes to that tiny but significant eureka moment.

I will say that while the learning curve may be steep and the equipment expensive and a pain in the ass to repair, the pleasure payoff is supreme when you are flying across the ocean powered only by the wind. This is the first sport that’s ever made me laugh out loud from the shear joy of it. Last time I was out I caught some air, for on purpose this time, which induced a big laugh of amazement when I landed it successfully and kept gliding. Of course I wiped out seconds later as my mind became distracted with reviewing my success.  Like a Buddhist master  with his bamboo switch, extreme sports have a direct way of letting you know each and every time your attention wavers and you stop being present in the Here and Now.

Potential Energy

I’ve lost my way. I’m like a little girl out in a misty forest full of strange sounds and prickly bushes. I came here looking for something, but when the fear grabbed hold of me, I got disoriented and turned around. I’ve been wandering around looking for my destination, but all I’ve found is muddy holes, impassable creeks and a big patch of poison ivy. My clothes are tattered and my legs and face are covered in scratches. I haven’t given up though, and I know there is a way out of this tangled mess.

Once a week I am joined here in the forest of my life by Andrea Mauer, my wonderful and talented life coach. She takes my hand and walks the twisting paths with me. I show her the paths I tried and she helps me see where I went wrong. She points out the similarity between these paths and the ones I’ve already taken that led to impasses. She saves me from going down paths she is already familiar with or that she points out are rife with obstacles before I get too far along. Every once in a while she invites another wise person to join us in our search for my destination.

Andrea introduced me to Amy Oscar’s blog several months ago. Amy describes herself as a Soul Caller, an intuitive, a life coach and a teacher. Amy is deeply spiritual and connected to the Spirit World in a way that few people I know are. Like me, she believes in angels. But Amy has a connection to angels like no one I’ve ever met. You can read more about her here.

Recently, Amy invited readers to join her in a month long Writing Circle. I’ve joined in the hopes that her connectedness to the Spirit World and a connection to the other writers participating will help me find my way out of this dark forest of self-doubt, fear and resistance, to reconnect to my purpose in life and bring me to that place where my writing is full of inspiration and passion.

Yesterday’s prompt spoke to me and the eloquence with which Amy writes was inspiring. She wrote:

There is a place between here and there, between mystery and science, between staying and leaving, between choice and becoming: a place where most of us do not want to stay very long. We want to name and explain everything. We want to understand, to know – so we can put things in their places.

And yet, sitting in this space of not yet, of “I don’t know,” can be the most powerful place of all. For it is here, having departed the familiar and not yet arrived at the ‘who knows where,’ that anything is possible.

Not knowing is something I’ve never been comfortable with. It’s the reason I went into the sciences where the security of a “right” answer gave me something to hang on to and I did so for dear life. As a child, my greatest rewards – praise, love and attention – came from “knowing.” Naturally, it took me almost forty years to get more comfortable in the grey areas of life. The one area I was still severely challenged in was the realm of relationships.

I’m a serial monogamist – my whole adult life I’ve been in and out of relationships, but have been in them more than out. I moved in with my boyfriend when I was 18. I’ve been in a committed relationship for 21 of the 25 years that followed. I was 32 the first time I lived on my own for any considerable amount of time. I’ve been so uncomfortable with those in-between times that they have typically been filled with anxiety, depression and serial obsessions with first one man and then the next and the next, until something sticks and I’m back in a long-term relationship.

Not this time.

I find myself in that in between place now, the place Inyala Vanzant calls “the meantime,” that time between staying and leaving, between the choice I made and becoming whatever it is I will become. This time there is a difference though. I am still not completely comfortable here, but I notice I am more at ease than ever before. Anxiety is an occasional visitor rather than taking up residence in my soul. Andrea’s coaching has been invaluable in helping me find this place of acceptance and calm. When we started working together, I was already walking a path that hugged a jagged cliff-face overlooking a bottomless pit. She talked me off the cliff step by vertigo-inducing step, gently helping me figure out I was once again on the path to self-destructive relationship behavior, and then helped me figure out where to put my feet.

This is my chance to change the pattern of making choices that are not in my best interest and to stop hitting my head on the relationship brick wall. This time I am going to get quiet, turn inward and listen to my soul more. This time I’m going to take care of me more and worry about who “he” might be less. This time I’m not going to let myself fall head over heels in lust with someone I barely know. This time I think some “dating” and getting to know the person before I move in with him sounds like a good idea.

Perhaps more importantly, this time I’m not going to sweat the alone time. I’m going to use this time to work on me and my writing. When so many of my friends are juggling full-time jobs and kids, I am in the envious position of having only myself to worry about (six dogs and Felipe the caretaker hardly rate in comparison to 9-5 and a family).

Like Amy says, it is from this place that anything is possible. There is an energy in these in between times that is palpable – the potential energy of possibility, like a seed on the forest floor waiting for an opening in the canopy so it can to burst forth and grow. And so, I will be here waiting for the sunlight while I connect and create – me, myself, my soul.