Jostling with the Waves

One therapeutic aspect of being in the warm Pacific waters is what I call the “letting go and tumbling” effect. For some, tumbling in the surf may not seem like much fun, but for me, a longtime body surfer and wave navigator, allowing my body to tumble in the surf is a great pleasure.

For one thing, allowing the waves’ unpredictable movements makes me let go. I cannot control how my body will move in the surf. So any bodily patterns I have so strongly established become jostled and tumbled and smoothed away by the deep, mysterious currents and salty rollers.

As an experiment one day as I was floating around in the ocean, I decided to see how much I could let go. I chose a spot that was shallow (a little “baby beach” spot on Napili Bay) and allowed the waves to move me however they pleased. I felt like a seal rolling about. My body moved in all directions and I tried to keep my muscles soft and available for whatever direction the ocean wished me to go.

(BTW, isn’t there a practice of relaxing your muscles if you are going to fall so you don’t hurt yourself? This is the same idea.) In a calm, safe part of the sea, allow yourself to be soft and surrender to the teachings of the ocean.

Softness can be difficult to achieve. Most of us don’t do daily ocean tumbling practices. So much of our day consists of muscle positioning and guarding. We pose, protect, hold on tight, stay strong, and stay rigid. What a lesson in letting go to allow little warm waves to gently stir me up.


Allowing c
lients to feel this stirring up sensation is one reason why I often incorporate jostling in my massage sessions. I love to jostle clients’ legs and arms in particular. By doing so, the muscles cannot stay in a rigid place of predictability. (They can try for a period of time and then they must let go.)

The muscles don’t know where I will take them, how fast, and for how long. The body must surrender to the jostling, just as my body did in the ocean waves. My arms and legs lifted and opened and closed and twisted; my back arched; and my head dipped.

And I felt, in a way, reborn.

Try this:

It is not very effective to jostle yourself (although certain erratic movements can give you a similar effect), so find a partner with which to practice. Take turns gently moving each other’s arms and legs up and down, in circles, etc. and see if you can feel your partner letting go, surrendering to your process.

And now that we are edging our way into summer, if you have a nice, soft beach to play in, feel free to do a little wavy jostling in the lake or ocean. Find a safe and comfortable place to let the water move you. Even if you just stand in the water up to your waist and allow the little waves to gently toss you about, you will be feeling the effects of letting go of control.

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About Courtney Putnam

I first came to healing work through art and writing. Creating collage art and poetry in particular allowed me to deeply understand the benefit of self-expression in the healing process. But, I also began to see the benefit of bodywork (manual work in the form of massage and energywork in the form of Reiki) as keys to unlocking the emotional stresses we hold in our bodies. I became a Reiki practitioner in 2002, received an MFA in Creative Writing in 2003, received my massage license in the spring of 2006, and became a Reiki Master in 2010. In my practice I bring together these three areas -- the body, the mind, and the spirit (or energy body) -- so others may experience profound and positive change in their lives.
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