Now that school is in session and tourism season is ending, the beaches are quieter. That makes it a perfect time of the year to enjoy them in a different way. We hear everywhere about the importance of mindfulness to help us thrive in a stressful world, and an expanse of sand or rock with the waves rolling in is an ideal place to clear your mind and just be. Sit back and admire nature’s artistry on display in the stunning shells (explore: shell jewelry) scattered around you and the changing hues of the sea water.
What is mindfulness? It is not complicated. Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening in and around you in the moment. We are all barraged with thoughts about the past and the future – worried about what happened in that work meeting last week or what might happen next week. Mindfulness is not a way to erase or repress those thoughts; it is about simply acknowledging them and letting them go. Instead of dwelling on them, you deliberate refocus your mind on the moment, what you can see, hear, smell, taste or feel right now. Focusing on the rolling waves is a deeply relaxing way to do this. But mindfulness at the beach doesn’t have to mean just sitting back and watching the waves.
What is mindfulness: practice
For some people, bringing a chair or blanket and sitting at the beach watching the waves roll in is the ultimate in relaxation and letting go. But others prefer to have an activity to focus on to keep themselves in the moment. Here are some relaxing, simple ideas for eco-friendly mindfulness at the beach.
- Walking barefoot on the sand, letting the water wash over your feet focuses your mind on the changing physical sensations – the cold water, the feel of the sand and the sensation as the receding waves pull away. Pick up rocks and shells and feel them with your eyes closed. Explore how smooth or textured they feel.
- Photography makes you focus completely on the shot in the moment. Look for a stunning shell or try to capture the exact moment a wave crashes on the shore. This is a great way to bring home something to remind you of your favourite beach without disrupting the habitat by removing anything.
- Pause and really listen. What can you hear besides the surf? How many different bird cries can you hear? What else do you hear? Are there other sounds nearby such as a dog barking or traffic? Can you hear rocks clattering as the tide pulls them further out?
A Word about Rock Stacking
Rock stacking, building small cairns out in nature, has become a massive trend. Some have advocated it as a mindfulness practice in nature. It seems harmless enough, but environmentalists have warned that it is getting out of hand. So many people are stacking so many rocks that it is actually disturbing habitats. Collecting seashells has the potential to create similar problems.
Mindfulness in nature isn’t about changing what is around us, but about noticing and appreciating it as it is. It’s lovely to pick up shells and rocks, to feel their texture, and then return them. You could even build a small stack of rocks and then scatter them back along the beach after you photograph your creation.
When we all follow the general principle of ‘leave no trace’, the beach remains a more wild place, healthy for people and marine wildlife.