The Lowdown on ‘Surf’s Up!’

I spent several days last week up on the North Shore of Lake Superior – this time on a retreat to try and gain a greater sense of direction related to my work life. I had the opportunity to work with life coach Marcia Hyatt, and to stay in her cheerful yellow cabin on the water’s edge.

Any career guide will tell you, the place to start in choosing a fulfilling career is to know and understand oneself, so that is where we began. Self-reflection isn’t new to me, but I was curious to know if anything else valuable might surface. So, I wrote, I drew in a visual journal, I hiked up a mountain, I did ki breathing and yoga, I talked with Marcia and played in her sandplay box, I didn’t talk with anyone else for a day, I wrote some more, I paid attention to my dreams..

By the middle of the second full day, I was tired of focusing on myself. Since the night before, prodigious waves had been crashing relentlessly, and the sky was a churning kaleidoscope of dark clouds and blinding sunlight. I thought it would be fun to send a clip of the waves to some friends, so grabbed my iPad to capture some video. Just one clip though, didn’t seem to do the scene justice, so I kept shooting more. Back at my cabin, I searched around for some video editing software for the iPad, and started throwing my clips together, making a slapdash video I ended up posting on Facebook.

All the while I felt like I was totally goofing off, and not doing the work I had come to do. Toward the end of my retreat, trying to discern what I might have accomplished, I was reminded of the Tao Te Ching – of doing without doing, of being so in harmony with nature that there is no sense of conscious effort. Among the insights I experienced during the week, this video and other spontaneous things I did when I was taking a “break” were at least, if not more telling than the more deliberate thinking I had done.

Who are you when you goof off?


4 Responses to “The Lowdown on ‘Surf’s Up!’”

  1. 1 Alec Johnson
    September 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Good morning Amy, I attempted make the following post on your blog and the system was asking me to log into a wordpress.com account. I don’t have one and didn’t want to sign up for one, so here ya go.

    Hi Amy,

    Thanks for the post. One of several thoughts that occurred to me after reading your post was how long it took for you to arrive at a place where you started to goof off. When did the big people forget how to play? Why did we forget how to play and why is it so hard to find space to play? The answers may be obvious for some and if so, then what does it actually take to get back to that place?

    I too have blogged about Play and the value of it, and yet Im so poor at it. What, for you, distinguishes play from other activities?

    • 2 Amy
      September 26, 2012 at 4:18 pm

      Great questions Alec! Thank you.

      I find myself wondering about some of the same things – especially the last question. The other activities I mentioned I’d done previously were certainly enjoyable, and some I would put in the category of ‘play.’ One thing I didn’t mention was dancing, which always feels great. But what distinguishes them is that these things were nevertheless entered into with some purpose in mind. I was seeking outcomes like helping myself relax, get centered, or come to new insights.

      When I was making the video, my desire to take each new step with it arose spontaneously. I was moved by the environment and process, not motivated by a goal. I also had a sense that I didn’t have to do or create anything – it was all there already.

      At the start of the retreat I set an intention of being at ease, and learning to work with ease. This helped me give myself permission to listen and respond more to myself – perhaps a different voice within that I’m less used to obeying. It felt novel to accept that kind of freedom, and take the pedal off the gas. I’m still practicing, experimenting…

      Why is this so hard for some of us? I can think of a zillion answers, but in a word I believe it’s cultural. Happiness research is showing not every society is as anxious and unhappy as ours. For anyone reading this and wishing things were different, I aspire to be your partner in subversion!

  2. 3 Amy
    September 27, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    As cliche as it sounds, I think it’s about being versus doing, and a mindset that mistrusts the one, and venerates the other. Even the words ‘play’ and ‘goofing off’ reinforce this thinking. Dare we believe that simply being is enough, and that by being ourselves, we will do things naturally? That’s where I’m looking for some of the answers to your questions.

  3. 4 Joanie Delamater
    October 22, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Loved the crashing waves! Washing away what I don’t need, cleaning off anything I have I med up from others in thoughts, actions, energy, that isn’t formula highest good! Always cleansing and renewing.

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