The day he left town, Millsey disappeared. Millsey is a giant stingray that lurks around Mothers Beach in Mornington, near the pier where the boats go in. He may have a different local name, but I call him Millsey because he occassionally ventures across Shire Hall Beach to Mills Beach. When I first got my stand-up paddleboard (SUP), I used to see him every time I went out. But it has been close to three weeks now, and no sign of Millsey.
It’s curious that I found SUP-ing almost two years into a global pandemic. At a time of disruption and uncertainty and unpredictability. During the six lockdowns in Melbourne which, if the headlines are true, formed the world’s longest lockdown, we were all confronted with parts of ourselves we had kept hidden. Those parts previously numbed by perpetual busyness, hectic calendars and rampant consumerism. We were always onto the next thing. The next big thing. And for those of us who had been running from ourselves, we were forced to come home. And that was confronting. As we re-emerge now, I suspect we’re all suffering some trauma.
I came home to my aloneness, vulnerability and fragility. I felt alone and unsafe in the world. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it. At times this distressed me greatly. My first answer was to run every day, then it was meditation, then it was a sea change. But the feeling of being alone in the world didn’t budge. It had always been there, at my core, but now it was so amplified I couldn’t ignore it. It was a chronic ache and, at times, both overwhelming and excruitating. So then it was… I need a partner. That is my answer. That will fix it. Now.
A common symptom of early childhood emotional trauma is a chronic feeling of “aloneness” or a sense of disconnection from life and the world.Tami Sasson
I discovered SUP-ing when my new neighbour moved in. From the first time I stood on his stable, beautiful board, I was in love. I had tried it once before, but had struggled to stay on the board. This time was different. It was blissful and peaceful out on the water, supping along on my little boat with a paddle. I loved the different perspective of the bay and all the sea creatures, the starfish and banjo sharks and jellyfish and stingrays. I got my own SUP for an early birthday present. It was a big investment, but I knew it would give me hours of free mental health treatment and absolute pleasure. It is sleek and pretty, with sea blue and purple, and superbly well designed.
I’ve always been a water baby. When I was a teenager I gave up surfing after a nasty wipeout and took up windsurfing. I used to go out at Gnarabup Beach, a crystal clear lagoon, not unlike Mills Beach. Mornington Peninsula reminds me of south-west Western Australia. I used to sail across the water feeling free and alive and blissful. I remember this soulful feeling. How delightful to rediscover it later in life in a new way.
Being on the SUP requires you to maintain your balance on an unstable object. The water moves beneath you in different and unpredictable ways depending on the wind and the tide. It requires core strength, stability and mindfulness. It is deeply meditative. You may find yourself in turbulent deep water, a long way from the shore. You can use the paddle to steady and flow, but you must trust in yourself and your vessel. If you start to doubt yourself, you can become very unstable.
When we balance our base chakra, we can develop a deep trust in our place in the world, and a strong sense of personal safety and security underlies every step we take in life.Natalie Southgate
The core in your body is your base (or root) chakra, your hara. The hara is referenced in reiki and martial arts. Translated from Japanese, hara simply means belly. But at a deeper level, hara means one’s true nature, who one truly is as a human being. The base chakra is about Mother Earth. Being at one with the earth. It’s your foundation, stability and groundedness. It is formed in the womb, in your childhood. Its affirmation is: I am.
How lovely to reflect on this deeper meaning as I undertake my next SUP journey. As I adventure out each morning or evening, going further alone and feeling stronger with each paddle. It affirms I am safe, I am grounded, I am capable, I can do this. And in these travels, I have found my inner stability and strength. I have found all-oneness. I have found my internal answer. One day, I’ll find Millsey. And maybe, just maybe, he will return too.