There is something universally soothing about the sea. Some people will of course say that they are more of a ‘mountain person’, or that their love affair is with the rolling hills of a verdant countryside, or even that it is is the raw heat and open plains of a desert that pacifies their mind.
But even when loyalties are divided, most of us will concede that there is something about water that soothes. It is often referred to as the elixir of life, covering 70 percent of the earth and making up nearly 70 percent of our bodies.
The reason for this near-universal love of water is hard to pin down. It might be that we all develop in the watery realms of our mother’s wombs and so our earliest sounds must be reminiscent of the water. Maybe it is that the rhythms of the seas mimic our own, with the moon’s rhythm exerting its gentle influence on the push and pull of the tides in a 28-day cycle, which - uncannily or not- is the same as a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Perhaps its a more visual affinity; the fact that a watery landscape is ever-changing, a constant dance between sea and sky, one moment a vivid blue, the next a stormy grey and so often a canvas for the delight of dancing sunlight, or ‘sun glitter’, as it is rather magically called.
Time by water or within seems to slow us down; inviting us to linger, to be soothed by its sounds, to lift our eyes to the horizon. And it has always struck me that there is nowhere more democratic than the beach; open to anyone willing to travel there and offering up its delights for nothing.
And as is so often the case, science has played catch up with our intuition, finding that water- whether being near it, in it, or beside it - is indeed good for us. Studies on happiness have shown convincingly that living in or visiting natural environments in general and marine and coastal ones is good for us on almost every count. The mere sight or sound of water induces a flood of neurochemicals that promote our well-being; calming our nervous systems, slowing our heart rate, inducing relaxation and honing our so often scattered attentions.
It is perhaps no surprise then that spiritual traditions have so often used lakes and the sea as metaphors for meditation, encouraging us to focus on the push and pull of the waves as a mimic of our own breaths, asking us to imagine the very still calm of a lake to develop a more spacious mind or using the fact that the surface turbulence of the sea necessarily hides an always calm depth - which suggests that if nothing else, the sea is a perfect and reassuring mirror of our own minds. |
Words & imagery by Nicole Croft.
Nicole Croft is a yoga teacher and a writer whose work is dedicated to the art of living well. For both her writing and her teaching she draws on the natural world, Eastern mysticism and Western philosophy to explore how we might seek to live in better balance with the rhythms of nature and of ourselves. She teaches popular weekly classes, both local to where she lives and on Zoom and runs several sell-out retreats a year in beautiful locations.