You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf

Posted on November 26 2019

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf

by Merve Onay

guest writer

Monkinya founder


“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

The world we live in is an unpredictable ocean, full of beautiful surprises, breath-taking views, as well as big waves and rip currents. We can try to stop the waves and turn this ocean into a very calm lake. But will we ever succeed?

The answer is no. Wind and waves are here, and they are here to stay! This is what makes the ocean an ocean but not a lake. And it is the whole beauty of life, itself – a beauty that we can only truly experience once we stop fighting with the waves or trying to stop them.

The first reaction of people when they hear me say “stop fighting with the waves” is: “So you ask me to accept whatever happens to me? Even though it is bad?”
Then I answer, with my favourite quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn: “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

We are all living on this beautiful ocean, and there are things we can control, and things we can NOT control. We can control who we spend our time with, we can’t control their behaviours. We can control where we want to go on vacation, we can’t control the weather conditions there. The list goes on and on…

We can not control the waves, but we can learn to surf!

We can learn to control our response to the events occurring without our control. We can learn to regulate our emotions. We can consciously choose to respond rather than react.

And this is exactly why we need to incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives.
Many parents I meet desperately try stopping the waves for their children as they don’t want to see their children upset, angry, or disappointed. They don’t want to see their children fall or fail. However, no parent – regardless of all the superpowers they possess- is able to stop the waves from happening. Your child will fail at a test at some point, lose a friend because the other child no longer thinks your child is cool enough. Little or big… These waves will come.

But what happens, when these little humans face the big waves in their life? If they do not know how to swim, how to surf, how to stand back up when they fall, how to fail – how to fail forward… they will struggle and fight with the unknown and frightening waves in their own ways. Unless they know how to cope with them. Unless they know how to get on a surfing board and find their balance.

We can not control the waves, but we can teach our children how to surf. We can teach them to take a breath before reacting. Sometimes one deep breath is all they need.

We can teach them to accept and welcome all feelings, including anger and sadness. We can provide them with all the necessary tools to regulate their emotions and teach them the power of thoughts. It is our responsibility to introduce our children to mindfulness, encourage self-love, self-confidence and self-respect above all. Let’s raise children, that will not need to be healed as adults. Let’s teach children, they are strong and brave enough to get on that surfboard and find joy in every single moment of life as it is.


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