Breathing by the Sea

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

Our family traveled to Galveston, TX this week to spend time together and next to the water. Immediately when I arrived, I remembered the tranquility and calmness the ocean brings. Driving along the sea wall, I gazed across the tide and watched as the white waves crashed into the sand. The water seemed to be a dark gray mixed with beige, stirred from Hurricane Hanna the night before. She decided to move further south, however, and briefly kissed the island with rare high tides and cooling winds. I was thankful for her visit, as it brought mid-eighties temperatures and a vibrant green to the plants and trees.

I recently heard that water in motion creates negative ions, which have a positive effect on mood, energy, and overall physiology. In the midst of turbulent times, these ions are exactly what I needed. Our family is comprised of health care workers, independent entrepreneurs struggling to stay afloat in the current economy, and parents striving to piece together the upcoming school year. With so many recent changes, we needed a place to suspend our current challenges and focus our attention on tropical weather changes, recipes, card games, and water time. There’s something about the beach that inspires a slower pace, and slowing down is the remedy to stress.

My weekly calls with my own mentor reminds me of this phenomena. As a retired LPC, he regularly takes me through the innate stress responses all humans experience, and consistently coaches on deepening the breath, slowing down words, calming the tone of voice, and tuning into the here and now. I’m always reminded how simple the calming process can be, but how difficult it can be to prompt it. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and even combative—the last thing I want to do is actually slow down and be calm. I hold fine company with my firing adrenal glands and rising cortisol levels, and my stubbornness doesn’t want to let down. I’m holding my position, and it’s strong. It’s when my body and brain gets fatigued, however, I’m forced to calm down, and then I realize it would have been easier and more direct to calm down initially. I would have done a lot less hoop jumping. Just a simple breath would have invited rest much sooner.

We are inevitably in a polarized world with hard positions. Yet, life isn’t always that defined. Our experiences and realities are also fluid, messy, and complex—a bit like the ocean. The array of shells, critters, and marine life are proof that life doesn’t exist in a tidy box. There’s always motion, just like the tide, with contractions and expansions in between. There’s moisture and fluidity, there’s evolving cycles, messy sand, and death followed by new life again. Anytime we pay attention to nature, we are reminded of this. For me, visiting the beach brings these truths closer to my attention. There’s an entire ecosystem that functions exactly as it should, and I’m no different. I’m right where I’m supposed to be, in the here and now. This week, I will soak in all that is around me, inviting in this natural sense of peace, and just breathe.

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