Miami Beach, Florida: For about six years it was my home. Living there always meant that no matter how much work I was doing, I could feel like I was on vacation in just a few minutes. That’s because the beach was just a few minutes drive from my home. Of all my memories of Miami, one that continues to nurture my spirit is walks along North Miami Beach. I’d park my car along Ocean Terrace near 73rd Street and walk over the pathway to the oceanfront. When I lived there, few people frequented this area.
There’s something very unique about walking along the ocean shore, with the grit of sand beneath my feet and the waves rolling up and splashing against my ankles. The sound of the ocean deafens most other noises creating a profound sense of solitude. And the horizon…..yes, the horizon expands out and melts into the sky. It seemed like I was looking at the far ends of the earth.
What I appreciated most about walking the beach was the perspective it gave the rest of my life. It was as though the roll of the waves in and out carried my worries and stresses far away from me. Thinking about my concerns from the perspective of the vastness of the ocean, my worries seemed to melt away.
I’ve always been something of a worrier. I’ve been known to keep myself up at night, tossing and turning, spinning conversations in my head attempting to work out difficult situations. When I was in my twenties, I talked about this problem with a good friend who told me she shared the same bad habit. She told me how she was starting to overcome night-time worries that kept her awake. When she became aware that she was tossing and turning, awake because of a problem, she got out of bed, turned on the lights and pulled back the covers. She’d ask herself, “Who’s keeping you awake? Is it so-and-so with whom you had a conflict? No! So-and-so isn’t in your bed keeping you awake. You’re in your bed keeping yourself awake. So-and-so is sleeping peacefully and concerned at all. Stop it and go to sleep!” I tried that strategy a number of times and in many ways it worked.
Today, I don’t find myself sleepless over day to day things, but sometimes conflicts with loved ones keep me awake. I remind myself of my friend’s advice and it helps. But even more helpful is when I use my imagination and remember what it’s like to walk the beach, hear the ocean, feel the sand between my toes….and remember what it was like to be on the shore. Then I remember that my concerns are so very small when compared with the vastness of the ocean. In fact, my concerns are really nothing at all.
One aspect of wisdom is to be able to view our lives from a different perspective. While our worries and concerns are important to us, from a larger perspective, there’s often not much worth the energy we put into worry. I have found that I am able to have that wider, broader perspective from nature: walking the beach, hiking in the desert, or taking time at a mountain vista. Of course, when I’m bothered and stressed by life’s concerns, I just can’t head to the mountains to get away. But I do have wonderful memories and the gift of imagination which allow me to visit those amazing places in my mind. When I do that, my life takes on a right-sized context. It’s then I can remember that my worries and troubles, like other things in life, are not permanent. Perhaps that’s why I hold dear the words to the mystic, Teresa of Avila: Let nothing trouble you; let nothing disturb you; all things are passing; God alone suffices.
Today, the closest beach to my home is a five-hour drive…..but with my imagination, I can be at Miami Beach once again.
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© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.