Each year on my beach vacation, I come upon this sign and it strikes me anew—and occurs with new meaning. How is life like the ocean?

While ever rolling in a constant rhythm of ebb and flow, each wave, day, and week is different. Each morning, the first gaze at the ocean is always breathtaking. In that pause atop the stairs, just before descent, I take in its vast blue, its join with sky at the distant horizon, and its fresh, hydrating air.

Yet you never know what you’re going to encounter within it.

Life is like the ocean in that, from shore, watching the magnificent waves roll in is one thing. But stepping into the ocean is another. Re-discovering an embodied balance of surrender, strength, and equanimity in an entirely different element is a whole other thing.

Life is like the ocean in that seeing its surface, and even appreciating its beauty, is not the same as diving in. Nothing can prepare you for the felt experience of the ocean except stepping into the ocean. From the initial cold water washing onto your feet, legs, and torso, to its current pulling you in as you walk deeper, to that moment of choice to surrender to its entirely other element—wherein you must breathe, move, and flow differently.

This week was unlike most. The waves, typically 3-7 feet, were 10-14 feet. Waves you can see from the beach, of course. But invisible from shore was the rip tide–wildly fierce and swift. It’s years of ocean swimming–of contact, strength and the seasoned feel of a deep current—that prepares one to embrace such an adventure.

In the ocean of your life, where are you? There are times to sit, peaceful on the beach, before or after swimming. To rest. To take in the unparalleled view. (For no one else in the world has your view of life). Honor these times of rest. Of reflection or hope.

And, recognize your readiness. When you’re ready to step in to something deeper. Even to dive into something else altogether. An unfamiliar element, perhaps a great unknown. By definition, it’s only the unknown in which you can learn, grow, and experience adventure.

Life is like the ocean.