Today I went to the beach for a couple of hours. I chose the baby pool at the Natural Energy Labs, because I didn’t feel like taking the spine-crushing, ten-minute drive to my favorite place, Pine Trees. Out on the shore there is a shallow pool, of varying depths, from ankle deep to waist deep, with a floor of smooth ancient lava, covered in soft and sometimes slippery sea life. The pool is strewn with great hunks of lava, which are sharp and, if you bump into one while snorkeling, you’d better have a Costco-sized box of Band-Aids. I chose a spot under some sea grapes and settled in to look out over the pond, where a family with two kids played in the shallow water. It occurred to me as I gazed out from sea level that the pond looked like a Zen garden (one of those sand-filled gardens with the rocks that you rake and arrange), flooded with silver water. Beautiful.
It was tempting to zone out. Between the heat, which was considerable at noontime, the shimmering water, and the quiet, I could have easily sat there stupefied by my surroundings and quickly gotten fried. I’ve seen this kind of mindlessness ruin many a vacation: electric pink tourists purchase a lot of Tylenol and Aloe Vera, and spend too many nights in their hotel rooms watching HBO instead of enjoying their vacations.
Not me. I risk spontaneous combustion at sunup, so I wear #70 every day. I’ll never look like that gorgeous, suntanned blonde, but with luck, I’ll never meet her in chemo either.
I tried really hard to maintain a clear and present awareness. I used Sally Swift’s “soft eyes,” so I guess you can’t really say I was trying hard, but at times, mindfulness takes effort.
There is an awful lot of sensory input at the beach. No wonder babies and little dogs get over-stimulated, have tantrums and need naps. I only lasted two and a half hours. There was
the warm breeze on my skin,
the hot hot sun,
the sound of Geckoes playing in the Sea Grapes behind me,
the soft lapping of water on the shore,
the sifting of sand as it shifted and moved around me,
the hard (too hard!) feeling of my chair against my skin,
the chuckle (modulated through snorkels–always an amusing sound) of the children as they spotted something interesting,
the far-off sound of someone’s Reggae music,
the ache in my knee from slipping and falling on the slick mossy lava (smooth maneuver, I know),
the piquant flavor of my grapefruit juice–so cold!
and then, the refreshing cold water of the shower back at the changing room when it was time to go home.
What a nice afternoon. I’ll remember it for a long time. I went to lavish beach resorts with the ex for weeks on end, where the beach boys misted you with Evian when they brought your cocktails, and I don’t remember a thing about those trips (well, except for the Evian bit). Isn’t it funny how the little things seem to stick in your mind as fond memories, even more than the really big things?
It’s that way for riding, too. Some of my best ever rides were unplanned, or informal, just hop on and go. The ones I remember with the most pleasure are not the big hunts with the longest runs or the Hunter Paces or organized trail rides. Heaven forbid a horse show. But it’s those little moments when awareness shines down on some exceptional beauty: the flaming orange of autumn leaves and that organic smell of sap flowing as your horse shuffles along, appreciating it too. Or the flock of turkeys rousted by your trot through the covert. Those are the things I never forget, because they open up a channel to pure awareness.
© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch
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