Oh! I forgot to tell you. I took one of my Minnesota friends to the meditation gardens at the Self Realization Fellowship in Encinitas, a small coastal town about 22 miles north of downtown San Diego where I live. He loved it as much as I do. I tour most of my houseguests through its restful pathways. At the top of the tropical staircase we silently separated, deciding to spend a few hours in our own ways. I usually sit in the sun at the north side of the gardens on a carved stone bench overlooking the ocean at an angle and did again that Saturday. At the garden's northern-most boundary lords a monolithic Tudor house said to have been owned by Charlie Chaplin. It's locked up tight with signs urging against disturbance. I guess the memories would leak out if the doors were opened. Every time I sit there that house u-turns my attention back toward the gardens themselves and out to the ocean, so I'm mostly okay with its uninviting posture.
An interesting phenomenon occurs at the ocean.
Every once in a long while there is total silence when no waves break at all. I always respond to this rarity in the same way. I wonder how along a stretch of beach so extensive one could parallel park every aircraft carrier on earth, the bluffs acting as the curb, could there be a break in the constancy of the sound I just assumed never ends? It happened only once in three hours causing me to raise my head as if awakened by a sudden noise, squinting out at the water to discover what was happening. It feels like each second of time swells in those moments the way it does when I catch lightening writing across a stormy sky, especially when it flashes the same jagged line three or four times. During the quiet time warp, I noticed the water was percolated by a group of dolphins moving south about 75 yards offshore.
Like the silence, the dolphins tweaked everyone’s attention. The surfers were plentiful that day at the beach called Swami’s, once immortalized by the Beach Boys. YesSirEEE the lush, superbly manicured landscape complete with coy pond overlooks that beach. It was strange to see the surfers almost completely still, horizontal on their boards, rising and falling to the ocean's tempo, each head turned right as the dolphins approached. What a great picture it would have made. (Where's a National Geographic photographer when you need one?!) It was obvious both species were aware of each other. The lead dolphin dove as it approached the surfers and resurfaced a few seconds later about twenty yards away. Every dude seemed mesmerized. Maybe they were in their own time warp. I am sure the whole group held its breath and hoped their mystical experience would protract. Curiously, one of the dolphins lingered and appeared to play with the surfers. He flipped his tail several times, splashing in the way small boys jump around in post-rainstorm puddles. It’s a shame I couldn’t hear what he was saying. I imagined his sea peers goading him to tease the poor people more vigorously. Maybe his parents admonishing him to keep up because they had a long way yet to go.
My own attention almost completely claimed by this encounter, I was distracted by a pod of whales migrating south about twice as far out as the dolphins. "What was the relationship between them," I mused? Even several hundred yards offshore I could see plumes of what seemed like steam jetting into the air, looking translucent white against the ebony background of the ocean leading up to the horizon. How many whales would have filled such a span of sea? Quirkily, I imagined the odor of their exhaust.
After it was over, the surfers returned to their sport. I returned to my writing and played with the idea of how my breath would smell to a whale. Surely it wouldn't smell as nasty as his! I bet the surfers had new thoughts, too. I wonder if they felt envy. After all, they were the interlopers, truly out of their element no matter how well they played there. I wondered how many shared paths with those amazing mammals for the first time that very day and if anyone cried from the beauty of it. I wondered if I could join the dolphins, would I? Would I leave the gravity of my world? Would it be different there? Would I still stress about survival? Would my thinking be different about what survival means? Would I appreciate the simple pecking order of the ocean and the constancy of my community? Would I ever want to return?
That place is amazing to me. It's good to know it's there. We should all find one such place and partake of it often. Quieting the soul is important practice and not just when times get tough. The habit is helpful in any time; in prosperity or shortage, youth or seasoned age. Finding a place outside that feeds the soul makes it easier to find that place inside that does the same thing. Funny how that works. Environment is so important. Choose yours carefully. Wonderful things can happen in the right ones.
What place inspires you as much? Send me an email and tell me about it!
David Facer is a professional life and corporate citizenship coach. For nine years he was as marketing executive for EMC Corporation in the US and the UK. Today he helps others walk their peculiar and wonderful path without apology. He helps businesses redefine customers and consumers as people, and return love to both the workplace and the services offered.
David~* C Facer Jr
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