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West Maui ocean is the remedy for the distractions of modern life

By Staff | Mar 30, 2017

West Side surfer Irie Gonah feeling the flow at D.T. Fleming Beach Park.

It’s all about flow

You know it when you’ve got it.

In the ocean, it’s when you’re tuned in, focused, in the moment, single-minded, responding to the dynamic forces around you.

If you’re paddling an outrigger canoe, it’s when you synchronize with your team, all paddling together as one, strong and together.

If you’re snorkeling or diving, it’s when you dive deep into the cavernous opening in a reef, measuring your breath, absorbing the underwater wonderland of a coral universe seething with life.

If you’re surfing, bodyboarding or bodysurfing, it’s the moment you decide you are going to catch the wave. You hyper-focus on the wall of water rising up over the contours of the ocean floor, like a euphoric predator who has discovered prey. You slink with your arms and legs into position, drive forward into the wave, and then comes a moment of weightlessness before the push of liquid energy whisks you forward. You flow for the whole wave, so focused on moving water you hardly know where you begin and the ocean ends.

If you’re immersed in the ocean, the flow comes easier. Saltwater envelops your neck, your head, your eyes, your skin. It runs inside your sinuses, into your eyes, through your hair. Your breath is measured, shaped by the exertion of swimming and the inundation in saltwater. You transform into “Blue Mind,” that peaceful yet present state of being that the alive, moving, warm, clean saltwater ocean gives generously.

In the ocean, many of us find our flow, and we carry it onto land, kindling it carefully like a slow-burning fire. Hours after a sea session, your skin remains fresh and cool, your eyes sharp and aware, your muscles loose and limber, your mind soothed and satisfied.

When my year-and-a-half-year-old daughter emerges from her daily dunk, it’s a metamorphosis. The hyper-mobile, super-active and over-stimulated young girl becomes serene, settled and joyful. She spent the first nine months of her life in water, and on a cellular, pre-conscious level, she knows she is back in her Mother’s Womb.

Yet finding flow on land might not come so easy as in the sea.

We are all plugged in, over-stimulated and multi-tasking, myself included. Computers, phones, televisions, news updates, friend requests, Snapchats, Instagram, radio stations, car rides, traffic lights, airplanes, street lights, air conditioners, video games, shopping for sport, white noise. The multi-track sounds of modernity are deafening, and our monkey minds are leaping from one thing to the next in a chaotic free-for- all.

I’m no Luddite. It’s an incontrovertible fact that never have so many human souls on Earth enjoyed lives as long, healthy and safe as is occurring right now, and scientific progress in medicine, technology, engineering and communication have driven that growth.

But each of us has to manage our experience of our lives in the 21st century, and to do that, we each have to find our flow. Where and when are we present, here and now, alive, in the moment?

For so many in West Maui, our flow begins the moment we arrive at the sacred sea. We are quiet, inside water, away from machines and distractions. As surfing patriarch and West Maui resident John Severson published in his very first issue of SURFER magazine in 1959 (in a much less distracted time), “In this crowded world, the surfer can still… be alone with the surf and his thoughts.”

For me, I find my flow the moment when I carry my young daughter to a quiet, secret beach in northwest Maui. She points and smiles and says, “Okay Wa Wa!” Hand in hand, we walk into the sea together, in the moment, wanting nothing else but here and now.