Riding the wave


The soundtrack is Beach Boys’ Surfin Safari. Seemingly effortlessly, you surf the ocean waves.

As someone who once tried windsurfing and spent far more time lying actually on top of the sail looking at the fishes than standing on the board, this is an appealing image!

I came across a mindfulness concept to help us respond differently to cravings or urges we might have, not giving into them but also not going into full battle mode. As you may know, fighting our cravings doesn’t always work. And yet we want to make a choice, to practice self control and not give into them.

The idea is to acknowledge the craving or urge, seeing it as a wave. The urge can increase in intensity; the urge can decrease in intensity – like a wave. But like a wave it will eventually dissipate.

And where are you in this picture? You are the surfer, riding the wave, gliding on your surf board. You are not fighting the wave and not giving into the wave. You are acknowledging it and staying with it as long as necessary.

We can make a choice to go with the wave, stay on top of it, surf it. We don’t have to act upon the craving or urge; we just acknowledge it and stay with it for as long as it lasts.

As we do this, perhaps imagining our breath as our surfboard, we can explore behind the craving or the urge. Gently and kindly, we can ask ourselves what the deeper need is inside us of which the craving or urge is a symptom.

We used this mindfulness concept – surfing the urge – at a recent mindfulness event in Cheltenham on the theme of self-control, enjoying watching a surfing video (you know the soundtrack!) and then using it in a meditation.

Afterwards we spent some time reflecting individually on what might be vulnerabilities in our self-image and what facts we might use – perhaps a daily mantra? – to put ourselves on a firmer footing. Then when a craving or urge strikes perhaps the wave will not be so high or last quite so long – and we will ride that wave!

In my private reflections I settled on a mantra which starts ‘God loves me.’ It went on with another phrase but those three words are so profound it might take me a life time before I am ready to – or need to – move on.

This is Mindful Monday on 20 May 2019.

If you live in Cheltenham or nearby, see here for details of forthcoming events – and get in touch to know more.





When we first think of being controlled, we might think of despotic regimes or dystopias where we don’t have freedom to make our own choices. A negative, fearful picture.

But here I am thinking of being controlled in the sense of exercising our freedom to make our own choices, or – put another way – practicing self-control. Being self-controlled is about deciding how we want to behave and then doing so. A positive, freeing picture.

We can make a choice NOT to do or have something because we believe it will be beneficial. Some of us may make a choice to limit our food intake (to maintain or lose weight) or our screen time (to turn our attention to those around us). Recently in the season of Lent, Christians may have ‘given up’ something they enjoy. Now in the Muslim season of Ramadan, Muslims may give up food and drink between dawn and sunset.  In doing this, both Christians and Muslims show their desire to draw closer to God.

We can also make a choice to do or have something. Take exercise as an example. We can practise self control when we make a choice to walk rather than get the bus or drive.

It is a positive picture of self-control – whether it is to do something or not to do something – but that doesn’t make it easy!

Look out today. Notice when you have a choice. Consider what the benefit of a particular choice would be. Would practicing self-control help you or someone else in body, mind or spirit? When we recognise the benefit – the result of – a particular choice, it will help us to be self-controlled – sometimes at least!

This is Mindful Monday on 6 May 2019.

If you live in or near Cheltenham, join Sara Shailer and Julie Hill for an evening of mindfulness on this theme of growing in self-control on Tuesday 14 May, 7.30-9 pm at the Oasis. Book your place by emailing hello@essencecheltenham.org