Being near water eases me. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s the ocean, a lapping lake, the finger of a reservoir, a flowing river, a babbling brook, or a still-water pond, if I can spend time near or in it, I’m refreshed. That’s a strange phrase “spend time” as if we dole out an expense of minutes. I admit there’s an aspect to it’s affect on me that involves time and my senses, but somehow “experience” the moment feels more apt. If I cross a river in my car, or perhaps view it from a plane, the experience is mostly just a visual instant, a passing through over time. If my mind is eased in such cases I suspect it’s linked to memories of a more direct encounter. However, when I’m at, or better, IN the water, it can readily touch the depths of my being and pervade the full senses of my body.
Even better, if I’m not only near water but can “be” (as in, allow myself to disregard time and truly just BE), I find my whole self genuinely renewed. Simply sitting or standing still along a river bank, consciously breathing, magically opens the floodgates of my senses. By relinquishing the desire to think (we can never fully cease thoughts but we can “watch” them rather than incessantly be driven by them) I feel life more deeply. Given a few moments my dormant senses begin to stretch, reach outward, and expand. From what I understand, they’re always actively taking in input, but for survival we’ve learned to narrow down what we’re conscious of, limiting what we focus upon or “notice.” But that’s been a great trade-off: the luxuries of our survival successes have made us indifferent to the vitalizing forces of life beyond our self. We’ve mostly become ignorant of the very sources of and networks of knowing that enabled our species to thrive. Our rational intellects are especially adept at keeping the vast array of inter-connective energies of the systems that we swim within at bay—perhaps because the sensations are so overwhelming and don’t readily fit within our culture’s overly linear framework.
At the ocean the immensity of these forces seem to more quickly overtake our little minds. But whether it’s my toes dipping in a cool lake, the babbling sound of water mixing with atmosphere as it rushes over rocks in coursing river, or the unique scent of algae-transforming pond life, when I’m near natural bodies of water I’m nudged out of my intellect and into my body. For me this is more potent when alone or with quiet companions. The intriguing thing is that within the experience of becoming aware of my body through my senses, I also clearly feel more connected to the world beyond my self! Verification our culture tends to root our sense of self, our identity, in our heads, as if we can exist without acknowledging our hearts or bodies.
Yet our bodies are yearning to connect, to each other, and the world at large, and the world is open (eager?) to enrich us. Though words are limiting and quickly become clumsy and inadequate describing this holistic sensation, the word awe, in its original meaning as a profound emotional/physical experience (from roots related to fear, terror, reverence, and amazement) comes close. I’ve been on mountains with views of incredible vistas, walked under thundering waterfalls, and held on with all my strength as the deck of the sailboat I was on careened at 45°+ angles in choppy waters, yet when I make the unforced effort to allow it, even a simple quiet marsh can be awesome.
I’m confident jungles, forests, peaks, tundra, deserts, and beaches can do the same, but right now I’ve the great fortune to live within a ten minute walk of a river that’s thousands of years old. No matter the tumult of the day or ongoing concerns of my life, gently engaging with it for even a few minutes washes my being, and rejuvenates my spirit. “Mindlessly” absorbing the rhythm of the singing currents and the visual stream of colors opens a door that enables the world from which we’ve become so removed to re-enter my soul. In an almost mystical way, for an instant “I” lose track of being an individual, and become a small, very brief note in the ever-flowing, spontaneous symphony. Seems so much would be more harmonious if we just put in a bit more effort and practice into keeping in tune with the whole.