By Victoria Foyt
If you ever have relaxed to the rhythm of ocean waves, no doubt you’ve benefited from the power of the sea to transport you from the stress of everyday life to a quiet place deep within. Many of us have the sense that the inner place never changes during our lifetime. Let’s call it, “home.” There, you are truly yourself, not the one who drives a car or runs the business or tends to your family, but the one who is witness to yourself and the world around you.
This ever-present you will watch life progress from playing as a child to studying in school to falling in love and perhaps later, raising your children. Despite the changing “faces” you wear and the growth you experience, the Inner You essentially remains unchanged. Some might call it the Soul, or Atma, or Higher Self. To describe the indescribable is difficult.
For just a moment, I suggest, with no lack of respect, that we set aside the question of religion. As Albert Einstein said, “I’m not an atheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books.” For now, might we agree that the ineffable essence with which you identify is simply the Truest You?
Whenever you connect with the True You, no doubt you touch peace and love, as well as contentment. The world’s cares fade away and forgiveness and compassion are within reach. No one passes through life unscathed. Every one of us will face many trials and be tested, again and again. And yet, if we step back from the hurly burly of life, in a moment of relaxation, as we often do at the seashore, the calmness of our inner home awaits.
Tethered as we are to our high-paced lives and the constant barrage of stimuli, we may find it difficult to reach our inner sanctuary. Often it is impossible to carve out a mere five minutes of quiet time during the day. A trip to the shore is not always feasible, either. Some people use visualization exercises, mediation, or a mantra, all of which may help to find serenity. The benefits on health and happiness of daily access to this calm wellspring have been well researched.
Nature has provided us with a wonderful array of totems to help us remember ourselves, from flowers to rocks and yes, seashells. People often stoop along the shore, choosing the best shells only to carry them home and enshrine them in a vase or on a shelf. At the seashore their beauty has magnetized us, yet they lay forgotten upon reentry to our busy lives.
A soft-bodied mollusk once lived within the shell that you collected. The tremendous power of the waves, along with a combination of minerals, created the shell to provide a protective barrier for the animal against predators and inhospitable terrain. When the mollusk dies, it discards its outer layer, the shell, just as one day, we must discard our outer shell. Perhaps in the journey of a shell we come to recognize the journey each of us also will take.
Over the years, I have collected many shells. Several decorate the space where I sit to practice quiet meditation and contemplation. Why not pick a favorite shell that calls to your heart and set it where you will see it in the morning or the evening or whenever life allows a moment of reflection? During this quiet time, your personal time, let the worries of the day recede and welcome the healing power of Mother Nature.
Allow the beautiful souvenir of the sea to remind you of your inner home and for a moment, or more, close your eyes, and like the rhythmic flow of the sea, watch your breath move in and out. Recall the soft rolling sound of the waves. The briny breeze that lifts the air and a squadron of pelicans overhead. A young child who scampers on unsteady legs to chase the tide and scream with glee when it turns. Slow down your breath. Exhale stress. Inhale gratitude, for life itself.
May you find inner peace on your homeward journey.