I Sea Love: Finding Healing, Empowerment and Community in the Waves

by Jen Lacey (Groundswell Spring Intern)

I.

Love is real. Love is free. Love is you. Love is me.

Every person longs for love and healing.

The fact of the matter is, most of the time, the answer is right before us. We are born into this beautiful world with everything that we need to be alive and well: pumping hearts and breathing lungs. Life is a free, precious gift that none of us asked for, none of us earned, but we got it anyways.

Sadly, the suffering, the pain, the darkness of the world jades us. We tend to forget that all of the beauty, all of the magick in the universe is right before our very eyes. Instead, we go searching for it in all of the wrong places, lose our path, and fall apart.

Love is the universal frequency that mends us back together. Though, we often leave out the most important part of any great love story: to love oneself. This is the first step in living a loving life. Until then, we project everything that we want to change about ourselves unto others. Hence, when we hurt others, we are hurting ourselves. Self-compassion–knowing your worth and being empowered by that–is necessary before we can spread that genuine, unconditional love to other people.

You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing. You don’t have to do anything to earn it. Your shortcomings, your lack of self-esteem, physical perfection, or social and economic success — none of that matters. No one can take this love away from you, and it will always be here.
Ram Dass

Until this past summer, I did not love myself. My inner light was dim and unacknowledged. I was captive to the excruciating expectations set before me by my authorities, and the media. I shamed myself for having human desires and I mistook my odd charm for ugly. I failed to see my talents and only saw all of my flaws and shortcomings. I never, ever felt good enough.

So I tried to find my worth by receiving the attention and approval of others, which often landed me in unhealthy relationships. Most of my friends were fun, yet insincere. I got caught in a negative loop of dating guys who destroyed my self-esteem even further. I developed a loathing towards men, but also a longing for their rapport. I entered into the most serious relationship of my life during my freshman year of college, a year I had gone into with intent of “nothing serious.” Early on in our three-year span of extreme highs and lows, I knew quite well that it was not the time for either of us to be in a committed relationship. Nonetheless, I ignored my intuition and I thought that we could make it work. I lost my sense of self; I just wanted to be perfect for him. I wanted everything to be perfect, just like everyone thought we were. In doing so, I became extremely self-conscious, out of my element, and unhappy. I was not doing what I wanted to do. I denied my freedom, withdrew from opportunities, and crossed off other possibilities. I was not following the path that I knew was right for me.

Because I was not being true to myself, I became increasingly depressed and anxious. I abused my body with substance of all kinds. It got excessive. I fell out of contact with my family and friends; at this point in my life, I had no one I could confide in. So I tucked it all behind a plastic smile, acted like I was fine, and proceeded to kill myself in small ways every day with temporary highs that were inevitably followed by devastating lows.

It got to the point that I began losing touch with reality. I started to hear voices in my head that were not my own. I would get so anxious and paranoid, to the point where I couldn’t look at certain people in the eye. I would leave my body and let my hands write and draw, and man they would create scary things sometimes. I was walking the road that my spirit cried out against–I knew I was hurting myself, my heart, my mind, my body–but for some reason, I kept treading it. I was quickly going off the deep end. I used all my strength to stay afloat, but knew I wasn’t going to be able to last much longer.

Fortunately, I recognized and grabbed ahold of my only life buoy–my surfboard. Indeed, the answer to my suffering was in front of me the entire time: the ocean.

II.

I am blessed to have spent much of my life in San Diego and to currently attend a university on Sunset Cliffs that overlooks some of the best surf breaks that Southern California has to offer. The ocean has always been an indispensable part of my life and identity; however, when I started going to school there, I became passionate about surfing.

Now, surfing is my daily practice and discipline. It is a time for me to be detached from the world, yet one with it at the same time. The ocean is immensely spiritual for me — a glimpse at God and Eternity, if you will. The ocean is my church, and being out there is an opportunity to fellowship with surfers of all kinds who are out there for the exact same reason as I am: to catch a wave, a transcending experience of pure joy, reverence, universal consciousness and connectedness with the Source.

This past summer was a season of final purging from all of the negative life patterns that had accumulated from years past, and a revival of my own radiance. It did not happen overnight — I had forgotten how to be, mind you — but I gradually learned how to love myself again, mostly because I never missed a day of paddling out. Surfing has allowed for a sequence of goodness in my everyday life: I wake up early, drink green tea with turmeric, do yoga, walk down to the beach and check the waves. I take a notebook with me and write down my intentions for the day, three things I am grateful for and three self-affirmations. Then I go surf my best, no matter what the waves look like. I make it a point to surf, or at the very least, get in the water, every day. Regardless of the conditions, surfing is a privilege, a mystical experience, and sheer bliss.

Because I have a healthy relationship with the ocean, I have no time for unhealthy relationships. I sent love and moved on from all who encouraged or enabled my old toxic patterns. I stopped self-medicating because surfing gets me higher than anything else. Surfing motivates me to listen to and attune with my temple and body: I began practicing yoga to find my breath, and running every other day to improve my stamina. I stopped eating meat, processed foods and artificial sugar and switched to an organic plant-based diet. I have never felt better in my life. Little did I know, the best was still yet to come.

III.

Things fall into place perfectly together as soon as you align your heart with love. Releasing all thoughts of the ego and pride allows for my most loving, truthful self to come forward and guide me. When love and gratitude are in focus, life flows and becomes simple. There is nothing left to figure out, to anticipate, or hold expectations for. Instead, I come to find all of the unexpected: strange synchronicities, endless opportunities, angels disguised as people. Everyone and everything seems to have a place and a purpose, all interlaced and connected into a greater whole—just like the waves in the ocean.

I melted comfortably into a sofa at the Living Room Coffeehouse, sipped my coffee and glazed lazily over the paper. An article on forest therapy caught my eye. After reading it through, I found that research had confirmed what I had already knew in my heart to be true: nature heals. In fact, a mere walk in the woods can lower levels of salivary cortisol, the hormone that rises when we are under stress. Forest bathing can also lower blood pressure and pulse rate and dramatically increase the activity of natural killer (NK) cells, immunity cells that ward infection and fight off cancer.

So when I saw the article on forest therapy, I immediately began looking into something just as holistic and natural, but more aligned with my life and myth: ocean therapy.

The research astounded me. I found that Ocean Therapy is proven to assist recovery and rehabilitation for those challenged by PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and other emotional, mental and medical conditions.

Surfing is a high-impact activity, dependent on nature, and requires drive and commitment for success. Surfing is a gateway to flow, a state of being fully immersed, focused, and enjoying the present moment. We are fortunate enough to engage in an activity where the venue is in constant flux. We can spend all day carving, analyzing, playing in the waves, know the tides, wind and swell direction; however, we can never know for sure what will pulsate over the horizon. Riding the raw swells of natural energy of a focuses the mind like few other activities do. Surfing forces you to focus on the task at hand and stay in the present tense. Nothing else outside of that moment matters.

I realized that the saltwater had healed me. It seems so simple. With all of the pills prescribed nowadays, we forget the power of Mother Nature’s healing. I began to wonder, how could I share something so simple, that which is right before us — the gift of the sea — with others?

I didn’t have to ponder it too long; the universe already had me in the perfect place. Later that week, I was studying at Jungle Java, one of my favorite local coffee shops. It was getting late and no one else was around, so I struck up a conversation with the barista. We talked about the surf, his plan to move to New Zealand, his working at OB Surf & Skate, and how he had recently been helping one of his friends out by loaning boards for her non-profit organization, Groundswell, whose mission is to heal and empower women by means of ocean and surf therapy.

This is one of those moments that I call a Godsend. Because there are no coincidences. I had not even brought up the topic of surf therapy, let alone that I had just found out about it earlier that week and was seriously looking into it. I continued to talk with him for some time and found out more: Groundswell offers small group ocean experiences for any woman that needs healing, physically or mentally. Groundswell partners with other organizations and helps recovering women of all kinds–those that are overcoming drug addictions and eating disorders, the mentally unstable, sex trafficking survivors, and more. This organization provides so much more than just teaching women how to surf. It is a community space for anyone in need, and facilitates women in reclaiming their power. This organization seemed like it was perfectly crafted for me. I immediately got their contact information from him.

And now, I find myself interning for Groundswell. I am honored to be a part of this love movement. The ocean has been an integral part of my own journey to self-compassion, and continues to be each and every day. I cannot wait to bond with my sisters and brothers and share my love and joy for the sea.

Though I am still only just beginning, I have already met with the founder of the organization, Natalie, several times, and some of the other members of the team. All of them are lightworkers and world changers — the few left that still believe in goodness and compassion and act on it. Embers that will set the world ablaze. Their giving hearts offer unconditional love and support for those that need it most. In this cold, cruel world, there is still the warmth of all-encompassing love, held on to by the particles of light that together make up the radiant sun. I admire them deeply, and they encourage me to do all things with love for as long as I am here on this earth. I find so much peace in that I am living my soul’s purpose, and that right now, I know that am exactly where I am supposed to be. My heart is so full.

IV.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:13-16

We are creatures of love and compassion, the salt and the light of the world. All of the walls and barriers we put up against ourselves and one another are illusory, misunderstandings, fear-based and ego-driven — consequences of not loving ourselves right, and others showing us non-love. I love everything in the universe. I accept everything for what it is. I am free and can change the world in a positive way based on the choices I make in my day-to-day life. So I choose love — unconditional, universal love. I refuse to give up hope. May these times of darkness inspire us to shine brighter, surf bolder, and give freely our love and stories to those in need. ♡

To love without limits.
Unapologetically and without reservation.
To look someone–anyone–in the eye, and see your own reflection.
Humanity is multifaceted as a diamond:
Rawly cut and catching light at every angle.
Everyone is beautiful.
Everyone is you.