Sara’s experience of the Suffolk waves teaches her what we are really up against most of the time, is just ourselves

I have finally come to live by the sea where I feel at my best – where the elements are vital and envigorating, and where one’s sense of, and enchantment with, one’s environment are so enhanced.

But the sea for me is also a great teacher. I love swimming, and I have learnt over some years to swim with ease and efficiency… in a warm swimming pool where I can see where I’m going and it doesn’t toss me about. The sea is a totally different story – It is wild and changeable, and cold, and until I can learn to trust it, I won’t be a graceful sea swimmer.

But I do know that the might of the sea, while of course dangerous, is also supporting if you can allow it. This came home to me very clearly in an Alexander Technique lesson I had with a teacher I had travelled across Europe to work with after a brief but totally transforming lesson from him some years before. I knew I had important things to learn from this teacher, Yehuda Kuperman, and after 3 years I tracked him down and followed him to Basel where he was giving a workshop.

My first encounter with him there was devastating. I remembered being like putty in his hands during our first encounter, and here in Basel I felt he was pushing me around – this was not at all what I remembered, but I also knew that this was the same person and I had come this time with high expectations of what I would learn – perhaps the problem was me.

What I learned, amongst many things, during that first visit to Yehuda, was that teacher and pupil always have to work together, and in a constructive way. If I yield too readily and passively to the stimulus of the teacher’s hands then I will collapse and all dynamism goes out of the work. If, on the other hand, I have my own agenda, and I resist the stimulus of the teacher, then all I feel is resistance – but the resistance is my own, not that of the teacher. This is where the waves come in: If I stand in the sea and the waves are big and I do not want to be knocked down, then one of the things I might do is to take a firm stance so that I can meet the force of the waves. I may or may not succeed – it depends on the size of the wave – but either way I will feel the wave with some strength as it smacks into me and moves past the place where I am planted. If however, I decided to “go with” the wave, and lower myself into it, then as it passes it will gently sweep me up and then put me down a little further on. The wave may be big, it may move me far, but it will not feel oppositional, it will then be powerful and gentle.

Now, the wave is not muscular and sitting there with a big ego deciding how to despatch me – it’s just there, it’s moving and it’s neither going to stop or push extra hard just because I’m in its path. If my experience of the wave is different at different times, it is because of what I do, not because of what it does. And this I think goes for much of what we feel we come up against in life – we might feel we are greatly opposed by an other – a person or a thing – but perhaps what we are really up against most of the time, is just ourselves.