The ocean is vast, deep and fathomless. Sometimes she is smooth as a mirror, other times wild and rough. She is full of life, she takes it and she gives it. Here are eight gifts from the ocean.
Beach walks are great for emptying your head. It’s like you throw your cares to the wind, literally and metaphorically. Do you have something you want to let go of, so your life will get back into a flow? Write your wish on a shell in pencil, or hold the shell while you blow your intention into it, then throw it back into the sea.
For example, you can lovingly return a pattern of behavior that doesn’t serve you any longer to the person it came from (you don’t need to know exactly who that is). Together with the shell you return it to the sea, to the source. Thank it, wish it all the best, and leave the rest to the waves. Would you like to give something to the ocean itself? Do what shaman Little Grandmother does: take a crystal and blow all your love and wishes into it for clean water in which animals and plants can flourish. Then throw it into the waves.
Listening to your own sound can be done with the ujjayi breathing technique from yoga. It’s sometimes called ’the ocean breath’ because it sounds like the murmur of the surf. The sound is created when you ‘slow down’ your breathing in the back of your throat. It makes your body warm and your mind clear. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth while you gently say ‘ahhhhh’. You can feel your throat constricting a little bit. Another way is to imagine you are in front of a mirror breathing condensation on to it. Practice this a few times, then close your mouth and breathe in and out in a ‘murmuring’ way, through your nose, as long and as regularly as you can. Every time you breathe out, gently pull your bellybutton towards your spine.
Rare, shiny, rough-edged or perfectly round, pearls are often thought to be the ocean’s most valuable gift. They are formed inside pearl oysters, but sometimes also in other shells like mussels or sea snails. But they are so rare that you have to open about 15,000 oysters to find one pearl.
The formation of a pearl is a reaction to a grain of sand, a piece of lime or a parasite that makes its way into the soft inside of the shell. The mollusk covers that grain in layers of mother-of-pearl, with which the inside of the shell is also covered. That way it tries to protect the soft lining of the shell, and the result is a beautifully shiny pearl.
Oysters are often likened to the female sex organs, and that explains why they symbolize birth and sexuality. They also symbolize the water from which all life on earth springs. And pearls represent the moon that causes the motion of the tides.
Water gives life and takes lives – people have known this since time immemorial. Every culture that borders on the sea has had the necessary sea gods and goddesses, to be called upon for a good catch of fish, or to be placated for a calm sea journey.
The Greek goddess Aphrodite was born from seafoam. The vengeful Inuit goddess Sedna, who reigned over all sea animals, had to be shown great respect. And the Netherlands, a country largely reclaimed from the sea, used to have a sea goddess called Nehalennia. Temples for her were found in the Scheldt estuary. Seamen who returned safely from a voyage thanked Nehalennia by having votive stones made for her.
Ebb and flow, the waves that roll onto the beach and retreat again: this movement is found not only in the sea, but throughout life. Breathing in and out, giving and receiving, coming and going, expressing yourself and looking inward; the water reminds us that life means movement.
When you tune into that flow, by meditating on it, you can find quiet in a tempest, or comfort, or indeed new energy. Do you not live close to the sea? A CD of sea sounds will bring it into your home.
Also nice to do: create your own mala from treasures you find on the beach, like shells, rocks, or bits of wood. It will help you meditate.
A spiral is an ancient symbol of the journey of life, of growth and rebirth. It’s a shape you see a lot in snails and shells. The journey goes inward, deeper and deeper, right down to the core. The things you have experienced on your way there, the things you’ve learned and mastered, become solidified in the core so you can then bring them out again as wisdom. Every new experience is one you store inside, and you go a little deeper every time you do it.
They are intelligent, curious, playful, sociable, and there are countless stories about them: dolphins protecting or rescuing people and other animals at sea. No wonder a lot of people are into dolphins. The spiritual message of these animals is to do with the power of breathing and sound. Tension in your body, for example, can be released when you forcefully blow out your breath, the way dolphins do when they surface.
Dolphins use something called echolocation: the clicking sounds they make help them to determine their position and to observe shapes. Sound is a creative force. How do you use your words to create your life and to relate to others? Breathe new life into yourself, that’s the message of the dolphins. Combine intelligence with humor. Make a powerful show of who you are once in a while: rise above the surface, break free, be joyful! And never lose your playfulness.
Clean oceans are something we all benefit from, because the ocean’s plant life can contribute to our health. Seaweed and algae are a sustainable source of protein and iron. But the oceans are polluted, so they are usually grown in controlled waters. Oil made from algae is a plant-based replacement for fish oil, a source of omega 3 fatty acids. Algae oil capsules also come in a vegan variety: not made of gelatin, but of seaweed. Kelp is chockfull of minerals, iodine particularly, and also rich in vitamins A, C and E. It’s used as a salt replacement and it makes your skin glow. This is the kind of seaweed you can ingest, but you can also make a kelp powder bath to give your body and mineral boost.
This article is part of our issue 21 ‘Practice Peace’
Text Ingrid Melenberg