Mindfulness by the sea
We all need a place to go to when everything just gets a little too much and we want to feel at peace with ourselves, safe and calm. My place is by the sea where I always feel I have truly come home. I have felt more and more drawn to living by the sea, working with the natural therapeutic elements that the sea offers us. On a recent break to the coast, I gave pause to sit and reflect on how I can capture and bring home the elements of the sea that work for me so I can call them up when I need that quiet space – the warm sea breeze on my skin, the salty tang in the air as I breathe in and out, the gentle, soothing ebb and flow eternal lullaby of the tide in my ears, the awesome power of this indestructible, natural life force that spans as far as the eye can see. A really powerful force, I reflect, that no man has yet managed to spoil or destroy. Something totally free, available to all of us irrespective of how much or how little our bank account holds, it is without judgment or discrimination and its healing properties are immense.
I found a beautiful place for my reflections – as near as perfect as any place could possibly be. A short distance away from the hustle and bustle of a busy seaside town – people rammed like sardines on the beach with barely an inch of sand to spare, a cacophony of music blurring with voices as holidaymakers made the most of a few days of beautiful sunny weather on the English coast – lay a country park. Walking up a hilly bank to find a view to sit and relax to, coming to the other side I was captured by a view of the sea reaching as far as the eye could see, the sun glinting and reflecting off the calm water, waves breaking gently on the shore, two boats gently bobbing along the silvery horizon and I was filled with blissful calm, all tension and stress gone.
I stood with bare feet square on the ground. There are powerful elements in the earth beneath our feet that travel through us when we connect and will leave us feeling centred and grounded. I took deep breaths in and out, feeling the power of the earth beneath my feet, sea salt tickling my nostrils and my tongue as I looked in awe at the magical vista surrounding me. Soft breeze brushed and warmed my skin as I was soothed by the timeless rhythm of the sea and a few seagulls squawked high up above me in the almost cloudless turquoise blue sky. A sense of deep peace travelled through me and I felt completely at one with myself, my senses heightened and yet calmed by the sheer natural beauty that surrounded me.
I was lucky to have the time to spend nearly two hours in this beautiful tranquil spot that day and to return the next day to spend another hour there before leaving for home. Some people passed by while I was there, either stopping to admire the scenery, pass a friendly word or two or continue on their coastal walk. During my time there, I barely moved as the restorative benefits washed over me and I captured the sensations to memory, to share with you, bring into my practice and utilise for myself.
So how do I recapture these elements when I do not have the privilege of sea on my doorstep and I need to take time out of my busy life to recharge my batteries? I have a natural salt candle holder that when lit gives off a subtle glow and calming, peaceful properties, a fan to generate a cooling breeze on hot days (and as a middle aged lady these days occur all year round, not just in the summer!), a CD lasting around 40 minutes of the natural sounds of the sea and a photo ready to be transferred onto a wall canvas in my bedroom taking me to my place of tranquillity.
So are you there with me? Not everyone’s place is by the sea – but we all have somewhere where we can feel completely at one with ourselves and achieve peace and calm as I have talked about here. It is sometimes a case of finding that place and tapping into your inner resources to recreate the magic.
Don’t be discouraged or daunted by the word “mindfulness”. It is a practice we can all learn and doesn’t necessarily require the intervention of a therapist once it is learned. You don’t need a high IQ, just an open mind and a willingness to gain a new life skill that will serve you so well. And best of all, once learned, it is free. “We spend so much time living in the past or thinking about the future, rather than just ‘being’ in the present”. Strikes a chord? It does with me.
Maybe you have already experienced mindfulness without realising it. When I was around 10 years old, brushing my teeth before bed, I suddenly paused and looked at myself in the mirror, thinking “This is me, standing in the bathroom, brushing my teeth”. I was there, in the moment and this new and simple experience which I did not fully comprehend at the time, left me awed and in connection with a part of myself I had not recognised before. Me, myself, I in the present. One of my colleagues recently talked of standing in her kitchen, preparing a meal and pausing to reflect: “This is me, standing in my kitchen, preparing food to nourish and feed me”. If you have had a similar experience, you will recognise this. If you haven’t, maybe give pause and connect with yourself now, in this moment. It’s quite an awesome experience.
If you need some guidance or help to tap into this inner resource, it is a skill many therapists practice and there are many books available to instruct us on learning this skill and gaining the myriad benefits it offers to improve our quality of life. And now, I’m going to sit mindfully in the garden for 10 minutes in the late summer sun before getting on with my day.
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About Sarah-Jane Johnson
Sarah-Jane Johnson MBACP - I am based in Haslemere, Surrey and Midhurst, West Sussex where we can gently explore your issues in a safe and comfortable place. I offer a full counselling hour and concessions. I work with young people, individuals and couples and specialise in integrative, person-centred, eclectic, CBT and Jungian therapy.