Surfing in Heaven – Section 1 title page (chapters to follow).
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Like the microprocessor in Silicon Valley, the sport of surfing was forever changed by the invention of the surf leash. The simple idea of tying your foot to your surfboard with a rubber cord eliminated any repercussions of wiping out on a wave and losing your board. The ripple effect of this was a fundamental reshaping of the sport over the next decade.
Before the leash, surfing not only mandated good swimming and paddling skills, but it required a more conservative approach to the wave you were riding. If you fell and lost your board into the beach, the consequences included a swim in to the beach, a more difficult paddle back out (against incoming waves), and maybe a couple hours in your garage doing ding repair if rocks or another person’s board got involved. Surfing in the 60’s included a lot of swimming, paddling, and ding repair.
According to Corky Carroll in his article “Humble beginnings of surf leash”, Pat O’Neill, son of famous wetsuit inventor Jack O’Neill, is generally acknowledged for inventing the modern surf leash in 1971. A lost board at Steamer’s Lane meant almost certain death on the rocks, so it is easy to see how that came about. Interestingly, the surf leash is how Jack O’Neill lost his left eye, as the early versions were made from a surgical cord that would shoot the board back faster than you wanted after a wipeout. Ouch!
With the invention of the leash, short boards quickly evolved (from long boards) as a new slash-and-tear style of surfing emerged that required minimal foot movement on the surfboard. Suddenly there was no penalty for trying something beyond your abilities on a wave as the surf leash began a revolution of what was possible while riding a wave. It was analogous to the safety net of the flying trapeze artists.
For those of us who had grown up surfing without a leash, this new invention was not all good news. My friends and I called it the “kook cord”. Most troublesome was the increase in crowds, as nobody had to swim in for their board when they fell. It was as if the entire skateboarding community suddenly was able to surf and never lost their board when they wiped out. It also brought people out at breaks they had no right to be surfing, giving them a false sense of security on waves they would normally not even try and catch. Paddling out even became a challenge if you were navigating through the kelp.
Today, when conditions allow, I love to leave the leash behind. I immediately feel a sense of freedom and relief from the safety belt effect of having this plastic cord tied to my leg. This is how I learned, how it seems surfing should be. There is an exciting sense of risk and danger in trying a difficult move (like “hanging five”), knowing you could lose your board to the beach if you fall. It gives me the freedom to move up and down the board without hindrance or danger of getting tangled on the cord. My surfboard becomes a part of me that I will hang on to at all costs if I do fall or go through a big wave. The exhilaration (“stoke”) of a good long ride without a leash takes on greater joy, often kicking out with a brief howl to awaken my soul. It takes me back to my roots of who I am as a surfer and reminds me how the ocean has been a part of my growth as a human being. Through that process I have become a stronger and better surfer, it’s a wonderful thing. It’s about life; learning and developing as we take our spills each day.
Taking off the leash in life
After 25 years in the high tech industry in Silicon Valley, I took a one-year sabbatical to become a certified New Ventures West Integral Coach®, or in more common terms, a Professional Life Coach. Those 12 months were all about taking off my leash and learning to live daringly without the Oracle security blanket. If you read Hit over the head by a 2×4, you know that I had been riding the Silicon Valley Express train that had me so wound up on a daily basis, that I lost track of who I was. I didn’t have time for that!
This change in lifestyle was dramatic for me and my family. In my New Ventures West coaching class, it became clear that I had to grow and develop myself before I could become proficient at coaching others. We were taught about “island hopping”, which is the natural progression of humans to constantly strive to get ahead in life by building a bigger and faster boat to get you to the next island of your dreams. A Tony Robbins term for this is “CANI” (constant and never-ending improvement). It’s what Silicon Valley is all about. I’ll always remember the picture drawn on the whiteboard in our class of a stick figure man on the left ==> a body of water in the middle ==> and an island on the right, with the comment: “Constantly trying to get life to turn out in the future.” There’s no time to be present. God forbid we stop and smell the roses. We just look ahead to the next island and start designing the next boat to get there. Faster. And life is passing us by.
That 12-month break from the Silicon Valley Express train allowed me to remove my leash to experience the freedom and joy of who I really am. I’d be lying if I told you it was easy. I fall a lot these days, but am learning to enjoy the swim and gaining strength from the experience, knowing that I am growing along the way. I feel a sense of freedom I have not felt in years. I am learning to listen deeply and let life teach me where I want to go. It is a marvelous thing. My coaching is all about helping you to take your leash off and give it a try. It can be a life-changing experience. Here are a few testimonials from my clients who have been brave enough to take the plunge.
Bronnie Ware took off her leash and learned to live a life around who she found herself to truly be. This book is a memoir about her journey, which led her to care for the needs of the dying. What was most interesting to me was how her life was transformed by that experience of tending to those who were in their final days on this earth. The top five regrets were interesting, but what I admired in Bronnie’s story was her honesty about too many years doing unfulfilling work and how she was able to break that mold to live the life she felt she was called to. This is not a Christian pilgrimage, but a simple retelling of how one can learn to listen carefully to our internal compass in life.
Here is a quick recap of the “Top Five Regrets” verbatim off her website (in case you were curious):
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
“Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
God was setting an important example for us when he rested after six days of work in the opening book of the Bible. Work is a critical element to life here on Earth, as well the life we will live in Heaven (Matthew 25:23). Even after creating man, God immediately put him to work in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15).
I would like to propose a new perspective on how to approach the challenge of balancing work with the rest of our life, by contemplating our death.
While I am passionate about the need for balance in work and life, I’ll be the first to admit that there is no quick fix to the many challenges we all face today in this area. There are plenty of books, articles and videos telling us how to solve it. Here’s a “top 15” list I compiled just in case you want the quick fix:
- Set boundaries with email
- Ask for support
- Get organized
- Concentrate on one thing at a time (get present)
- Make time for loved ones
- Schedule everything
- Let go of perfectionism
- Work smarter, not longer
- Don’t compromise on your sleep
- Set life goals
- Learn how to say “no”
- Make relaxation and breaks a priority
- Exercise and meditate
- My 2nd favorite: Hire a personal coach
- And my favorite (it really works): Unplug!
Check out my Circle of Life quiz, which provides a quick view of the current state in balancing your life:
This work/life balance thing is a very tough nut to crack in our non-stop 24/7 economy that is being driven by a mobile device that seems to travel everywhere with us. Rebecca Zucker writes in a recent Harvard Business Review article titled: “How to Achieve Work/Life Balance”:
“… I now work as an executive coach, and work-life balance is an issue that my clients frequently grapple with, as they face the new work demands that come with technological advances. For example, one client in San Francisco who works for a fast-growing tech company shared that she gets up at 4am to work. She has anxiety about the possibility of missing an e-mail at midnight. “Is this normal?” she asked.“
I don’t think it’s “normal”, but I do know it is happening more and more as an increasing number of us are now sleeping with these little mobile “devils”, beyond just getting us up at 4am to keep up. Fortune magazine recently reported that 71% of us sleep with their own smartphones either on a nightstand or in their bed!
At times I wish I could beam my family back to the 1960’s when I was growing up in Corona del Mar spending summers on the beach without a thought in the world, other than what was going on right then in front of me. It did create some challenges with surfing however, as we actually had to go to the beach to look at the waves to see if it was worth going out. Today you simply push a button on your iPhone – and magically the tides, wind, swell and even a video appear for that day; that moment… What!?
When my wife and I started our high tech careers at ROLM there was no Internet, no cell phones, no voice mail, and no way of carrying your “days work” around in your pocket. When we left work, we were done for the day. The only thing waiting the next day when one arrived to work [possibly] was a pink slip or two. Not the pink slip that dismissed you from your job, but a pink form someone filled in when a phone call came in for you while you were out of the office. The workday started when you arrived at the facility.
I worked hard and had days when I worked late, or when I would come in on a Saturday to get caught up. But when I was not at work I was focused on my life outside of work, whether that was family, friends, fitness, or just relaxing and watching the surf to see if I could anticipate a swell on the rise.
Since we’re not beaming back to the 60’s anytime soon, lets agree there seems to be no stopping this lightening bolt of progress. Dr. Richard A. Swenson, M.D. summed it up well in his book Margin when he asked:
“If we are enjoying so much progress, why is everyone so worn out?“
So let’s pause on all that progress for a moment and talk about what happens at “the end”. You know, when we die.
Steven Covey, in his best selling book: “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, was the first to gain widespread attention with “Begin with the end in mind” (Habit #2)”. Covey asks us to question whether we are approaching life in a manner that reflects our values and beliefs. To make his point, he included a very insightful exercise that impacted me immensely. He asks you to find a place where you can be alone and uninterrupted to visualize attending your own funeral – three years from now. Covey then asks you to write the speech of four people who were important in your life and who will speak at your funeral: a family member, a close friend, a co-worker, and a member of your church or community. What do you want them to say about your life?
Here is a reprint of it (Covey_End-In-Mind_Exercise) to try it out. I have used this as a self-reflection exercise in my coaching. It powerfully demonstrates how you are prioritizing your time, and helps to seriously re-examine your priorities. As the old adage goes, you never do hear anyone say from their deathbed that they wished they had worked more. In her book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, Bronnie Ware cites the number two regret (of five) as: “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”.
Suddenly, another thought creeps into my head. Suppose I die. The odds are about 100% that eventually that will happen. And people then [hopefully] say nice things about me at my funeral.
Being a Christian, Heaven is a given after life on Earth. But, what does that really mean? What will it be like? What will my body be like? Will I know anyone? Will I still be able to surf? There are a thousand other questions I could ask. If I am going to be in Heaven for an eternity, I’d like to know a little more.
As mentioned earlier (About surfing and my Christian faith), I did not become a Christian until I my mid-thirties. Prior to that, I had a real fear of death. It was something I called “permanent lights-out”. This thought of complete nothingness would envelop me. It was my biggest fear. By far.
John Lennon’s “Imagine” (1971) has a few verses that speak to this way of thinking. It is a beautiful song. But pay attention to what it really is saying.
“Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people — living for today”
He’s talking about permanent LIGHTS OUT!
Most research tells us roughly seven-in-ten Americans say they actually do believe in Heaven — defined as a place “where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded.” Most of us really do want to go to Heaven, and I believe God desires for us to use our imagination to anticipate the beauty and wonder and joy of what awaits us there. In Matthew 6:19-21, God commands us to set our hearts and minds on heaven above. Jesus was consistently very clear about that in the Bible:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
When Jesus met with his disciples for their last meal together before his death, he did not use the time to review the strategic plan on how to move his ministry forward after He’s gone. That’s what I probably would have done. But instead, Jesus speaks about Heaven, and gives them a picture of hope around the place he is preparing for each of them:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3
Chip Ingram makes the following comment about this in his book “The Real Heaven”:
“Jesus knew that a crystal clear view of eternity and of their future home in Heaven would sustain them through the most difficult of times. When life would get hard and when persecution would come, the hope of Heaven would motivate them to persevere.”
When I became a Christian no one handed me a brochure on Heaven. It remained a mystery not discussed much in church or Bible studies. I wanted to know more and thus began a wonderful study for me. It all started with the Bible.
I will see you in paradise
A disclaimer here:
I am not a professional theologian, pastor or trained biblical scholar. These writings are based on my research solely and do involve some conjecture on my part. I am not the expert, but I do reference a few books (including the Bible) for those who want to learn more.
While I have studied the Bible and attended church fairly consistently over the past 30 years, I did not have a very clear picture of Heaven. It had always been present in discussions about life after death, but I never felt I had much of a grasp on what it was.
The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of Heaven (622 times according to Google), and hands-down, Jesus speaks of Heaven more than any other.
Another useful resource on Heaven is Randy Alcorn’s book appropriately called “Heaven”. Alcorn has spent over 25 years researching what the Bible says about it, and he attempts to answer some challenging questions, such as understanding the difference between the present Heaven (where Christians go when they die) and the ultimate, eternal Heaven (where God will dwell with his people on the New Earth). I don’t want to get to that level, but highly recommend it.
I also have referenced my notes and materials from Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). BSF is an international Christian interdenominational structured Bible study (begun in 1959) I have been participating in for the past 12 years. BSF is a wonderful program for anyone wanting to learn more about the Bible.
One of my favorite verses on Heaven in the Bible is this one, where Jesus refers to Heaven as “paradise”, in almost the last words he spoke on Earth before his death. He said this to a dying thief who was being crucified next to him on the cross. As the thief accepted Christ as his Lord and Master he was assured of his place in Heaven.
So just exactly what is this “paradise” that awaits us that Jesus is referring to? According to Jesus, they were going to be there “today”! As I have studied Heaven, it has given me great purpose for my life here on Earth. The Bible is crystal clear about what awaits us by accepting Jesus as our Lord and savior. Heaven is a real, physical place Christians know to be the final destination, where we will enjoy life with God for eternity.
Chapter 21 of the book of Revelation in the Bible represents heaven as a place where there is no more sin, death or sorrow. Heaven will have indescribable beauty beyond our wildest imagination from what we know here on Earth. We will rejoice with those we knew in life on Earth when we are in Heaven. We will be home with God with a sense of peace and joy that everything is as it should be. In Heaven we will have real physical bodies, will eat and drink and wear clothes like we do here on Earth. In Heaven we will be able to do physical things just like we do here on Earth today. Like having a tasty barbecue with your good friends on the beach.
As Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection he made a point to eat with them and asked them to touch him and see that he was a physical being (Luke 24:36-43). He even prepared a breakfast fish barbecue on the beach for his disciples to demonstrate to them that he was himself (John 21:1-15). I know this is hard to imagine for us here on Earth. Nobody of course understands the mystery of how God works all his miracles, but the Bible is very clear on all of it.
From all the reading I have done, a life way better than we can imagine awaits us in Heaven. The very best we may have experienced here on Earth will surely pale in comparison to what God has planned.
Here is a quote from Randy Alcorn’s Heaven to frame this picture:
“All of our lives we’ve been dreaming of the New Earth. Whenever we see beauty in water, wind, flower, deer, man, woman, or child, we catch a glimpse of Heaven. Just like the Garden of Eden, the New Earth will be a place of sensory delight, breathtaking beauty, satisfying relationships, and personal joy.”
While Heaven and Earth appear to be separated today, according to the Bible, in end times when Jesus returns to Earth, Heaven will come here onto a new Earth for eternity. The New Jerusalem comes down to the renewed Earth and there the redeemed will spend eternity with God on the renewed Earth. Revelation 21 contains a surprisingly detailed description of what this “New Jerusalem” will look like.
I purposely am avoiding further detail, and recommend Randy Alcorn’s Heaven if you want to learn more. But it is fun to use one’s imagination to provide an image of this wonderful world yet to come.
While all this is interesting, I found myself still wanting to know more about Heaven. I wanted to debunk this belief about Heaven being boring or anything we might get tired of. I even have one friend who half jokingly described it as a non-stop church service singing “Holy-Holy-Holy” … for eternity?
Gary Larson spoke to that well in his many comics on Heaven.
Stay tuned for my next post: “Opening day in paradise”.
This book was made into a movie in 2017, and I highly recommend both if you have any questions around the historical reliability of the New Testament, and/or claims made by Jesus Christ. Lee Strobel was a self-proclaimed atheist when he began investigating the Biblical claims about Christ after his wife’s conversion. As an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Lee pulled together all the facts about Jesus as if he were going to trial. Prompted by the results of his investigation, he became a Christian on November 8, 1981.
Heaven by Randy Alcorn
I’ve made my case for this book in the above post. Simply wonderful.
In the words of Stu Weber (stated on the front cover):
“Other than the Bible itself, this may well be the single most life-changing book you’ll ever read.”