“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”
– Shunryu Suzuki, from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
Have you ever noticed that your mood can be changed by being around water? Bodies of water, including oceans, can be part of moodtraining.
I have had occasion to experience many different waters over the years…from the frigid fjords of Norway to the tropical surf of Costa Rica. This weekend, as I make my annual trek to Ocean Isle Beach, NC, to vacation with family, I am mindfully aware of how sensitive mood can be to the ocean in particular.
While it is easy to reminisce about fond memories of childhood trips to the beach (which is fun in its own right, and often a mood lifter!), it can be a little more challenging to see & experience the ocean for what it is, rather than what I think it is, or what I associate it with from years past. Those are just stories, enjoyable as they are. The actual experience of being by the ocean, in the moment, moment by moment, being present with “how it is right now” is different. It is a form of mindfulness practice, to let go of a story and directly experience the way things are, on a sensory level.
Sitting out on the beach, we can lose track of time, absorbed in the momentary joy, content, and awe of simply gazing out at the ocean blues. As we look with discernment, or Beginner’s Mind, we can see that the ocean has many different blues. The water actually isn’t all the same color. There are variations. From lighter, more turquoise color closer to the shore, to deeper, blue-green hues further out. The ocean blues also change with the sunlight. In direct light, the blue colors can shimmer, and as clouds pass by overhead, the same colors can appear duller or matte. And similarly with the blues of the sky. Some areas are fainter, intermixed with white, and other areas are deeper, more brilliant blue, perhaps more eye-catching.
These kinds of observations & realizations parallel mindfulness practice itself, which involves different layers and depths.
This summer, try being mindful of your ocean blues if you are at the beach, and notice if there is a shift in your level of awareness, your mood, even your sense of connection with something larger.
There is simple pleasure to be found in opening up the senses and taking in the ocean with a Beginner’s Mind. As a meditative practice, focusing on the senses helps us get beyond our relatively narrow sense of Self in order to access a new way of seeing, and perhaps a new way of being. Even if it’s only for a moment or two at a time, the latest research on mindfulness suggests that mindful states can support mindful traits, which in turn, can lift mood and boost enjoyment in life!