Sailing at sunset

By Glenn Baja

Reach, slice, pull, push. Reach, slice, pull, push…

Steadily I glide, each stroke propelling me strongly forwards. The bottom below resembles a 1970’s shag carpet on steroids, with hundreds–no, make that thousands–of beefy, snub-nosed plants with worm-like flexibility growing upon this Beaver Island, Michigan lake bottom floor. I’m immersed in an aquatic vegetative world of plants with saucer-shaped leaves, each vertically stacked like poker chips atop each other, hugging melodic swaying stems that reach upward towards the jewel-mirrored surface waters above.

I pause, gazing with fascination and wonder at the scene around me.

This world is alive with a rhythm of its own: pulsating seaweed…swaying forwards, backwards, sideways, up, and down; a lake floor that’s moving and shifting, in tune to it’s own timeless tempo and changing voice; and the orchestration of dynamic, yet invisible, lake currents that bring forth life sustaining nourishment to its special settlers.

A symphony of delicate motion dances in front of me. From the slow, bass-like movement of the hearty, to the quick violin-pitched movements of the perky, the seascape surrounding me is astir, all consciously and dynamically alive.

Reach, slice, pull, push. Reach, slice, pull, push…

I feel strong, light, and powerful. My forward progress feels effortless, my body responding with precision, experience, and speed. A swimmer from birth, my deceased uncle once told a story from the past, of pulling me up by my hair at docks end while just two years old. Unafraid and calm as I was, I believe to this day I was casually checking out the underwater sights and sounds of the aqueous world below, a world I still love to this day.

Water heightens every sensation I have, awakening my brain, stimulating my body, and stretching the boundaries of my common day-to-day world. It’s coolness invigorates and teases my senses, sometimes being so great I must dive or jump in quickly, rather than experiencing the torture of a slow, step-by-step descent, into it’s aqueous realm.

Reach, slice, pull, push. Reach, slice, pull, push…

Oscar

I stop.

Twenty-feet to my side is a small school of fish lazily scouring the bottom for food. They startle at my presence. Alarmed, they quickly retreat a safe distance away. My childlike curiosity kicks in, and I start counting their numbers while searching for others, tempted to swim towards them to find more. But I resist, reminding myself wisely to enjoy the moment, slow down, and be present,.

So I hold still and float like the vegetation around me, arms stretched outwards in a cross, legs dangling loosely below me, while using my breath to control my buoyancy. I concentrate on my breathing – slow, even-keeled, and rhythmic – calming myself down to enjoy this special magical moment.

I focus in on the one fish that shows some curiosity towards me, observing it as it moves towards me. He stops, floating still and suspended, while making eye contact with me. His pectoral fins move to and fro like ears, as if he’s making funny faces at me.

So here I am, floating like rhythmic seaweed, having a staring contest with a fish…

Oscar. His name suddenly comes to me. It must be Oscar.

I continue to float motionless, while Oscar and his curious fish friends swim slowly and lazily towards, past, and beyond me. There is no fear, there is no concern. They inch closer, hesitate, and swim closer still. They do this again and again, each time coming a bit closer, while I do my best to hold still.

Suddenly, a seed of acute consciousness flashes outwards from me, as my brain perks-up and weighs-in on the utter coolness of this special moment. No sooner do I do this, and the fish retreat.

What happened? Did I move? Did my changing thoughts interrupt an invisible safety veil?

Practicality takes over and prudence returns. I break from my flotation pattern and Oscar and his fish friends disappear. I swim on…

Reach, slice, pull, push. Reach, slice, pull, push…

Magic Moments

These are magic moments. We are surrounded by them in our lives. When we pay attention and calm our bodies and mind, we can discover many such jewels in daily life. Be it the sight and sounds of children playing gleefully on a playground, the smile and conversation of a stranger in line at a coffee house, or the distant flute-like sounds of the Wood Thrush on a walk in the woods

The moments exists everywhere…

How can we be more aware of these magic moments in our lives? How can we identify and draw more of these into our daily lives?

Here are a few pointers that have worked for me:

1. Slowdown  

We live in a world of high tension and non-stop activity. We are bombarded constantly with media, programmed to follow the crowds, and get upset and/or anxious when in heavy traffic. We schedule our days without taking time for ourselves. We fail to slow down enough to enjoy the present moment – the here, and the now.

Take time out everyday to center yourself. Go within to listen, feel, and observe. Breathe… breathe deeply with intention and a relaxed rhythm. Feel and observe with your inner intuitive guide and senses. Let yourself open up, observe, be present, and look for special moments. Seek, and you will find.

2. Be Open to the Gifts of the Moment.

We give meaning to every event that happens to us. When life feels good, we declare those moments to be one’s of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fun. The challenge is to see the importance and gifts in those moments that don’t appear to be quite as attractive or desirous. The next time you get lost in a new neighborhood, cross-paths with a rebellious daughter-in-law or grandchild, or encounter a physical limitation that prevents you from doing that which once came easy, step back and ask what could be great about these moments.

For example, rather than cursing the inconvenience of being lost, ask what it is that you’re meant to see?  Acknowledge that you were supposed to have this experience, perhaps so something else may appear, or not appear, at a later time.

View the rebellious daughter-in-law as a masked cry for help, while acknowledging the fears and struggles you once had as a parent raising your own family. See your challenging grandchild on his/her march towards independence and individuality, as we all once expressed ourselves, as we learned to spread our wings in preparation of living life on their own.

You may no longer be able to climb Mt. Rushmore, run a marathon, or lift the groceries up the stairs as you once used to, but ask: Is there a gift in this? What can you learn about patience, asking for help, or accepting new limitations in your life. Ask, what might this mean for you? How can your awareness, and experiencing what is real for you today, be a gift tomorrow?

Despite our limitations, self perceived or not, there is always someone who is worse off than you who can use your help. Showing someone how to work with physical limitations while befriending them can change both your and their lives. 

3. Do What You Love

Most of us have spent our lives doing for others. It’s time to be more selfish and self-centered. Begin doing what you love. The kids are on their own, the college tuition bills are finished, and your house is paid off, or nearly so. This is your time. This is your life. This is your magic moment! Do what you love. Don’t wait!

4. Feel Alive

Seek out and expose yourself to those things that make you feel vibrant, alive, and awake. Do what you can to keep yourself in top-notch spirits. Listen to music, go for a walk, take a long, hot shower, and feel the sprinkling rain or sunshine on your face when outside. Listen to the sounds of the waves, watch a glowing sunset with a loved one, and feel your gratitude bubble over when waking to a new day, or giving thanks for the one just finished.

5. Appreciate Life

Be appreciative and thankful for being alive. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience, a remarkable gift in and of itself. Cherish each day and give thanks for the opportunity to experience the new growth and lessons that comes with each moment.

Give thanks…with all your self and soul.

Your outlook on life will change dramatically for the better when you master these life lessons.

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