This morning I headed for Strandhill. It’s a lively place and the waves there are usually wild – creating a surfer’s paradise. The winds dominate and dictate. But this morning everything was calm. The sea was drawing itself away from the dunes. It was a gorgeous morning – tee-shirt weather!
I find great therapy on the beaches of Sligo. I leave the noise of life behind me and soak in the scenery – the miracle of the sea breeze fanning my face, the smell of seaweed, the cries of gliding seagulls, the lapping waters of the ocean, the endless carpet of golden sand and the majesty of rocks that have survived centuries watching over the glory of it all. And it all just happens. We have no control over it. The sea visits the shore and pulls away every day. For centuries. It’s almost like a spiritual ceremony. And there were other people there too -paying their own homage. This morning everyone I could see was walking on their own. Maybe they had come for the free therapy. We all appeared to be savouring the whole magic of where we were.
Savouring is when we attend to the joys, pleasures, and other positive feelings that we experience in our lives. It is when we relish and focus on something enjoyable or satisfying. It is commonly experienced in relation to food, but positive psychology research studies reveal that there are benefits in learning to savour more than a good meal or drink. Savouring is not about grasping for pleasure or reaching out for the next better thing to come our way. We find it easier to savour special moments like a wedding, concert or holiday. On the other hand, we sometimes fail to notice everyday pleasures. I have encountered people who live beside the seaside and fail to take in its majesty. But I have also spoken to people who set out in a deliberate way to soak it all in. Through their daily walk they savour every aspect of it.
Studies show that savouring positive events is correlated with a greater sense of well-being, greater happiness, and even better health. When we visit the health section of the library or bookshop, we encounter an array of books about coping with the negative events of life from relationship breakups to illness and death. There are few titles about how to harness the positive experiences of life. There seems to be little interest in learning how to experience the positive aspects of life in a deep and meaningful way – of learning how to capture, savour and sustain enchanted moments. It is presumed that when good things happen, we naturally experience joy but research indicates that that this is not the case.
There was a lady with a camera on Strandhill beach. I noticed her walking towards the water. She took her shoes off and stepped into the sea. She stood in the same spot for about ten minutes – taking it all in. Collecting photographic relics of her morning added another dimension to her savouring. She could revisit the scene later.
I found a quiet spot in the soft and dry sands. I lay on the flat of my back and rested. I closed my eyes and just listened. It’s amazing the sounds that you can hear on a beach. Nature has a different orchestra at the seaside than at a forest or in the countryside. I rested for about an hour. Such freedom. People seem to be rushing the whole time. Rushing to the next thing, wondering about the last thing. A lot of us forget that we are actually here at all. I was in tune with the world.
On my way back to the car the lady with the camera caught up with me. In broken English she asked me to take a photograph of her. ‘No problem’ I said. ‘I want the sea behind me.’ she replied, ‘I want to be in the picture.’ She thanked me. As she walked away I thought to myself. Are we ever ‘in the picture’? Or are we passengers on the train of life? Do we ever waken up to the reality that we are HERE?
(C) Shane Martin