Why We All Need to Be “Kooks” in Midlife.
Chip’s Editorial Comment: Stacy Peralta is a big deal in the film and adventure sports world, but you’d never know it by meeting him as he’s so down-to-earth and humble. We are fortunate to have him be one of our MEA faculty members.
In surfing parlance, a “kook” is a beginner, someone at the beginning stage who is making a mess of themselves trying desperately to learn how to ride a simple one-foot wave. Kooks can be fearless in their attempts, comical in their approach and embarrassing in their intensely-driven efforts to ride that one-foot wave, which is why surfers call them kooks…so please hold this thought…
It’s been a few months since being a guest teacher at MEA and I’m still feeling strongly affected by my experience. I didn’t expect to have the experience I had while I was there, and I didn’t expect the experience to affect me the way that it did - and I didn’t expect the experience to last as long as it has. After reflecting on the week, I believe the following to be why:
My everyday mind operates in a fashion that I believe is probably similar to many others; essentially my mind operates like a continuous wind storm of thoughts swirling around for my attention. In a furious fashion, there are three storms that simultaneously compete with each other: my daily and yearly wind storms containing all the thoughts and events of the day and the year ahead, and the long term, heavier wind storm that still holds the residue of unresolved issues from past events.
What happened during my week at MEA was a clarification of all three of these wind storms. I was given the space and freedom to bring expression to certain areas of my past that I had not previously had the ability to express or understand. And this was not because I had been unwilling to express them or discuss them prior to the week, but rather, that I had never had the form or the place to give them the expression they needed to be clarified and resolved.
At the beginning of the week I arrived as a guest teacher and I quickly realized that if I embedded myself not only as a teacher, but also as a student, I would have a richer, more challenging and more rewarding experience. And I did. I wasn’t able to hide behind my “teaching credentials'' and remain removed from the hard work. I was required to be open, to be vulnerable, and just like my fellow students, to reveal my struggles, my uncertainties and my fears. In doing so I enriched my experience tenfold and got so much more out of it than I had originally expected.
Being in a safe place, with caring teachers, a well thought-out curriculum, and with a group of individuals who were all wrestling with similar circumstances of their own, gave me the freedom of expression, belief and acceptance that I needed to unfold. It gave me the space and safety to let out issues I don’t usually get a chance to reveal in my everyday life. It has subsequently given me a better understanding of myself: of how I got to where I am, what issues still need my attention, what steps that worked or didn’t work in my past, and how I want to move forward.
The MEA program is designed around the cultivation of a supportive environment, and in being together as a group you find safety in vulnerability, in revealing and expressing and discussing your inner self to find the much desired resolution. So many of us were able to unpack and untangle very important events in our lives that needed our attention and by doing it together we could reflect off of each other for encouragement and validation.
Or maybe it could be better understood like this. When the bones in our bodies occasionally find themselves out of place, we require a chiropractor or a physical therapist to help put them back in alignment so that we can function to the best of our physical abilities. This was essentially my experience at MEA. I was able to get an emotional, mental and spiritual realignment within myself that I was unaware I even needed, freeing my internal world of the invisible restrictions I had been unable to crack by myself.
And if any of this sounds heavy and disheartening, like we were all sitting around sobbing and crying the whole time, it’s not. The experience was deeply uplifting and positive. It included all forms of emotion and discovery, including riotous laughing and celebration of the crazy and always messy human condition that we are all continuously affected by.
I found MEA to be a place that not only encourages you to be a kook, but celebrates you for having the courage to be a kook at this stage in your adult life. Simply put, there is magic to be found here.
From his early start as a kid on a skateboard in Charlie’s Angels in the 1970’s, Stacy Peralta went on to become a professional skateboarder and surfer and a well-known film director and entrepreneur. He will be teaching again at MEA Baja this spring with “Radical Transitions: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself” (with our own Mindfulness Leader Teddi Dean).