This weekend we were out-of-town visiting my wife’s Aunt who is staying in a shore house down in CT. The house is right on Long Island Sound and it is one of the most beautiful places you could ever visit. When you sit on the porch, you get about a 200 degree view of the water. There are boats and birds and waves and rocks and anything you could possibly want to assist in the task of relaxing. I spent the weekend sitting down relaxing. My relaxation was only interrupted with periods of naps, meals, swimming, walking, fishing or kayaking. No internet and no cell phone service meant I was cut off from everything. I was forced to be present in the moment and just enjoy where I was and what I was doing. I highly recommend that you find a place, or make a place like that for yourself. It’s so good to be able to rest from time to time. Our lives are so busy and our time is so filled up that we often forget that it is important to recover from time to time. The stress that we put ourselves under is killing us. If the kids didn’t start school and if I wasn’t working on a big project for my job I’d have gladly stayed for another day or two.
One of my more enjoyable experiences was sitting on the sea wall and meditating while the high tide hit the rocks below me and occasionally hit my feet with water. I have never found it so easy to be present in the moment with nothing clouding my thoughts or demanding the attention of my mind. There were birds flying overhead and waves beneath my feet and my son sitting quietly with me on the wall and I was absolutely absorbed in that moment alone. The beauty of a clear mind cannot be overstated. In that moment, I had no problems. At that time, I wasn’t worried about work or the state of my life or the world or my relationships with others or my weight or any of the thousand other things that demand my attention. I had reduced my mind to paying attention to a piece of seaweed that was floating on the waves and hitting a rock every so often. I believe that this is the type of clarity that people often pay a lot of money for when they go to a retreat for days. Now that I’ve experienced it, I can see why they do. I had no great spiritual epiphanies, I did not become enlightened, I did not transform into a higher level of consciousness: I was simply my true self for a few minutes sitting on a sea wall and experiencing a oneness with everything around me.
The trip was also sad for us because this is probably the last time that we will be able to do this. The house had belonged to my wife’s grandfather and he passed away earlier this year. My wife’s aunt is there for the summer cleaning it and preparing it to be sold. The upkeep and taxes on the property are just too much for our family to be able to keep the house. When you know that you are about to lose something that brings you so much peace and joy, you are going to be sad about it. It’s a part of our nature as humans that we don’t want to lose something we see as beneficial. However, nothing is permanent. If we were to try to come up with a way to hold on to this home, it would cause our family and my wife’s extended family financial hardship, arguments and in the end create suffering and strife. We realize this but it does not make the loss any less painful. Impermanence is a blessing when it comes to suffering: we know that it will not last forever. However, it feels like a curse when it means that things that bring us joy must also go away. Even though I have only visited this house four times in my life I already feel an attachment to it. I can’t even imagine the loss felt by other members of the family who grew up visiting the house or spending significant time there.
That’s why rest is important. Even though the weekend was tinged with sadness, there was much more joy in it as we relaxed and rested on the shore. In those restful moments or in my moments of mindfulness and meditation, the attachment to the house lessened and the suffering caused by its impending loss was not there. This weekend was beneficial to me in so many ways: it strengthened my resolve to live mindfully, it showed me how beautiful the practice of meditation can be, it gave me more motivation to continue to lose weight and exercise, it taught me about impermanence and attachment, it gave me a time to disconnect from the things that demand my attention, it provided me with an opportunity to say goodbye. We’re back at home now and I’ve already spent the morning struggling with a difficult problem at work and I’ve had to deal with the phone company who had not yet made repairs to our home phone line and I’ve had to deal with the stress of over sleeping and not having time to exercise or eat a proper breakfast. However, I’m remembering the weekend and the peacefulness that I experienced and I’m trying to keep that with me through all of it. I feel much more prepared to handle these thing than I was before we went away on Friday. I hope that everyone reading this finds the rest and relaxation that they need to continue to face their daily routines with peace and happiness.