The sun rose steadily over a pink and orange sea. Promises of warmth but no sting yet. Just glorious sunlight. From the balcony of an ocean-side hotel I basked in the rays and watched the beach become busier. At dawn, the surfers arrived, shadows against the waves. Then the joggers. Then walkers with their dogs. Finally, a scattering of young families as the sun crept higher.
I sat, with a cup of tea and a neglected novel and watched. The sun rising and the people on the beach. I heard the crash of the waves. I closed my eyes and felt the warmth against my face. And I felt perfectly, perfectly happy and content.
Nothing had changed in my life. My problems had not been scrubbed clean by sunshine and salt. My to do list had not contracted. But my perspective in that moment was different. An imagined sense of urgency had passed. Things could be left undone without any calamity befalling me. My life was stunningly beautiful in that moment. And I was grateful.
We have these moments in life. When everything seems okay. More than okay. We are filled with confidence that things will work themselves out. That nothing is impossible and nothing is permanent. When thinking is clearer and hearts are calmer. When minor problems are seen for what they are and melt into their proper size. As I watched that sunrise, grateful for living, I wondered how I could hold onto the feeling. It can be a slippery thing, contentment, sliding away when other things creep into the picture.
Life crashes into us, thoughts and to-do-lists and a million other things seem to crowd that open feeling of space and contentment. Even when we gain perspective – whether it be through positive or negative experiences – life has a way of pulling us away from what we have learned. There is crush, a jostle, a competition of daily minutiae.
How do we pull away from that? How do we hold onto perspective? Onto contentment? Onto wisdom even? What was it about that moment that created space?
The beach is my healing place. The place I feel most connected to nature and myself. I set bare foot onto sand and I am immediately calmer. When I am in search of peace, I go to the ocean. So that helped. But I don’t live by the seaside. But I can make more effort to get there more often. I can surround myself with beautiful ocean images – it might work.
I was restful in that moment. I felt healthy. I can do lots of things to feel healthy. Sometimes after exercise I have the same feeling of happiness and invincibility. I can do that more.
What is the opposite of contentment? The dictionary tells me it’s agitation. I think it’s resentment. Resentment towards others. Resentment towards a situation. Resentment when things don’t go to my plan. Resentment isn’t helpful. I can let that go.
My breath was calm and even in that moment. I can be aware of my breath, no matter how far or near the ocean. I can make it slow and deep. I was aware in that moment, all senses alive. I think they call it mindfulness. I can do that more often.
I know what contentment is. I know how it feels. I can close my eyes and be back by the ocean. Soothed, calm and ready. I just need to do it more often.