I spend a lot of time on the beaches of Lake Erie (yes, Lake Erie has beautiful beaches) going for walks. I’d like to say that these walks are all spiritual walking meditations, but I have to admit that most of the time my head is down, looking at the sand in search of sea glass. For those of you unfamiliar with sea glass, it is basically old bottles of beer or coke that get tossed out of fishing boats, which over the years the current of the lake lovingly frosts into beautiful gifts from the sea. Gifts that have taught me a few valuable life lessons.
I guess you could say that I’m a little obsessed with finding sea glass. For me it’s the thrill of the hunt, having a sharp enough eye to spy it amongst the rocks and other shells on the shore, and occasionally I get rewarded with a rare color or unique shape.
Just this past weekend I was taking a beach stroll and started to get impatient when I did not find any sea glass. As I looked up, discouraged, I gasped and caught my breath. With my head dropped, I had missed the absolute stunning beauty of that moment. I had missed all the gorgeous shades of blue in the water and the sky. I had missed the birds soaring through the air. I had missed the feel of the wind across my face. I had missed the sound and beauty of the waves coming up to shore and the sparkling white light of the sun reflecting down on the water. I spent the rest of the walk taking in the beauty of this majestic body of water – truly a gift that I had neglected in my pursuit of old beer bottles.
Lesson #1 – Be Present
Like most things in my life these days, I was able to relate this experience to the practice of yoga. How often do we come to the mat with our heads down? Focused on what is stressing us out, where we have to be after class, or the new pair of yoga pants we’re convinced we need. By focusing on all these things, we miss out on the beauty of our practice. We’re missing the sound of our breath, the way our bodies feel as we move from asana to asana, the utter joy of letting go of all that other crap for one hour so we can find a place of peace.
Ask yourself, are you too busy looking down at the shore? Are you missing the absolute divine beauty of your yoga practice? Close your eyes, notice your breath, and let go.
I took a few of the pieces of sea glass I found and placed them on my desk at home to remind me of the lesson I learned that day – to open my eyes and be fully present in every moment.
Lesson #2 – Don’t be Greedy
I have collected huge bags of sea glass. Someday I’m going to make some jewelry out of it, but I’ll admit, I have accumulated sea glass beyond my capacity to use it in the proper way. These beautiful gems should not be sitting in a bag in my closet. Yes, I am guilty of hoarding sea glass.
Aparigraha, one of the yamas (from the eight limbs of yoga) is all about not being greedy. In my obsession to find sea glass, I have not been living this yama. There really is no need for me to have as much sea glass as I do. I should share my collection with others so they can enjoy it as well. From now on I’ll leave the sea glass on the beach for others to find. And, this week in my yoga classes I’m making up for some of my lack of aparigraha by handing out sea glass to my students for them to take home. My hope is that they will place the sea glass in a place where it will remind them to stay present and to not be greedy.
Ask yourself: What are you hoarding? Greediness can come in many forms, such as holding onto your emotions, not sharing the gifts of your talents or your love with others. Perhaps giveaway some of those old clothes, coats, or household items you’ve been hoarding to a person in need.
Lesson #3 – Patience
This one comes from the incredible book, Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. In the first chapter, Anne talks about the beach, particularly collecting seashells and how we shouldn’t be impatient and seek out or dig for these shells. That would defeat the purpose!
“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.”
Ask yourself: Are you being impatient in your yoga practice? Are you beating yourself up because you are not where you want to be in a pose? Practice patience with the body, patience with the breath. Be more open, and you will be rewarded as you blossom and grow into your yoga practice.
I love how life just teaches you lessons in unexpected moments, especially when those lessons are provided while walking down the shore of a beach! Get out there this week and take a walk. It doesn’t matter where you walk – just get outside, turn off the chatter, and see what lessons come to you.