‘May your own stories be woven into the place where you live. May your landscape remind you as you walk it how necessary you are to keeping it alive. And when you are away from the place you love, may your remember to sing the songs of your land, conjuring its aliveness in your memory until you return’ (from Toko pa Turner’s website)
After a long Sabbatical from swimming I ventured into the sea again and remembered how much I love been immersed in the emerald waters of the Aegean Sea. Despite living on an island I had not gone swimming since 2016. Last year I seemed to have lost all interest. Maybe I did not have the energy because I had lost a lot of weight or maybe I needed a break for other reasons. As I immerse myself in the water this summer gratitude wells up for the lightness that comes in the sea, the liquid embrace that brings up ancient memories of swimming in the small ocean of the amniotic bag. I watch a little boy blissfully present to his sea side experience and I consider the effort we later need to make, through mindfulness practices and meditation, in order to reclaim some of that initial sense of presence and wakefulness in our lives, and also, our tendency to not linger on the many small positive experiences that often occur throughout our day, but instead dwell more on the negative. Of course this is part of our human make up and scientists believe that our brain has a built-in ‘negativity bias’, which evolved over millions of years as we humans as a species tried to avoid natural hazards, predators and aggression from other humans. The negativity bias shows up in different ways and studies have found that in relationships it takes five positive interactions to make up for one negative interaction and interestingly participants in studies would work harder to avoid losing money than to gain the same amount. Also, painful experiences are much more memorable. However, as Rick Hanson writes ‘taking in the good is a brain-science savvy and psychologically skillful way to improve how you feel, get things done, and treat others. It is among the top five personal growth methods I know. In addition to being good for adults, it’s great for children, helping them to become more resilient, confident, and happy’.
Two young children spontaneously engage in gathering bits of plastic rubbish that the gentle waves have washed ashore. Their mom explains that turtles and dolphins eat plastic mistaking it for jelly fish. In the distance a surf board is moving on the water swiftly with the ease of a snake licking the ground and a group of kids are learning to sail in small sailing boats. The echo of their laughter reaches me as I spread cream on my thin skin. Anne Lamott says that the less armor you put on, the more you can celebrate your thin skin and the more you will be able to show up. I think about that and of this favourite and convenient seaside spot on the island that I have been visiting for several years. How many times have I greeted a stranger, watched my dogs swimming totally absorbed in the task of staying afloat, sunned myself on these rocks, read a novel, eaten fruit or the occasional ice-cream, swum in the water, searched for shells – layers of memories woven into this particular spot and other places on this rocky island I have inhabited for thirty two years. As Toko pa wrote in one of her posts ‘I’m fascinated by how memories can lay dormant until you revisit the place where they were conceived. I know now that this is because they are actually embedded in the physical landscape….. This embedment happens naturally, or you might say, passively, over time. The longer we live in a place, the more soaked with memories its soil becomes….’