The Zen of N: Finding Bliss in your Nature Spot

Keeping your head on straight in these recessionary times can be a challenge. But one affordable way to weather worry may be right outside your door. It’s your “N-Spot,” that special place in nature that can lift your mood like nowhere else. For what the famous ‘G-spot’ is to sexual gratification, so the N-spot is to emotional well-being. This is because N-Spots return us to our roots; to that place where we all began: Mother Nature. Regardless of your evolutionary perspective, be it in God’s Garden of Eden or Darwin’s puddle of slime, Nature is our worldly womb. She grounds us. And when we move too far away from her, we can go, well, a little nutty.

N-Spots vary. For some people, the stillness of the desert, the vastness of savannas, or the shade of dense forests do the trick. For others, it could be swamps, or starlit skies or even hothouses filled with flowers that work their magic.

My N-Spot is the beach. With the wind at my back and an endless horizon of sky and sea before me, walking on a beach refreshes my spirit like nowhere else, and I always return home the better for it. In part, this is because the beach reminds me that life is a continual round of growth, loss, rebirth and change. That even though storms come, they also eventually go and, despite the destruction they wreak, the beach survives, regroups and rebuilds. I can survive difficult times, too, for that is the law of the land and I am a part of that landscape. 

Along with a wider perspective, N-Spots can also lead us toward joy and peacefulness. I realized this about twenty years ago, after the birth of my third child, when my archaeologist husband and I relocated from expensive Hawai’i to a family-owned beach cottage in Annapolis, MD. Within a few years, my husband was flying off on long-term assignments, leaving me alone for months at a time with three kids to raise and too many part-time jobs to work. During that period, the beach became a haven for the children and me. The place where we spent most of our time.

Later, when they were teenagers and I ventured into a writing career, I walked the beach solo in search of calm. As my feet scrunched through the sand, I recalibrated a tight family budget or mulled over plot points for a new story. And always as I walked, my eyes combed the sand for sea glass, shells, pottery shards, arrow heads.

During that era, I learned that beachcombing offered me a way to collect not only fascinating beach treasures but also myself, for the activity  distracted me from doubt and worry and anxious thoughts of “What next?” For “What next?” to a beachcomber was simply to take a step, then another, bend down to examine something, pocket or toss it, then stand and take another step, then another… a routine repeated over and over with only an occasional break for a stretch, or an exclamation of joy, or the sharing of treasures with passers by.

Beachcombing became my elixir for better mental and spiritual health. And it cost me nothing but my time. What a win-win.

Nowadays, I’ve come to see that the Zen of Beachcombing is really another form of meditation – an active form – the repetition of which slips me into the “HUM of life; into the Eternity of the Moment, where all is pure energy, where there is no past or present, no better or worse, no ups, no downs. Instead, for that brief interlude, I float like a milkweed suspended in the Now.

There are others, I suspect, who feel similarly in their N-Spots. Skilled sailors moving their boats in rythmn to the wind and the waves, for instance, or hikers wending their way through wooded trails. Even daredevil sports enthusiasts like my husband, who spear dives at night, must experience some sort of Zen-like bliss in the silent, wet fluidity of the ocean darkness. Or extreme skier, C.R. Johnson, who nearly died in a ski collision that left him unable to walk. But once healed, he couldn’t wait to return to the slopes, only to barrel down a snowy mountainside a few years later and finally, meet his end.

What compelled Johnson to go back to extreme skiing? Was it for the thrill? Or the danger? He said in an interview that he skied because he needed to. Because it centered him and made him happy. Perhaps because it put him in a space in nature of cold and light and altitude where he instinctively knew he belonged; where his energy melded with the snow and the mountains, and in so doing suspended him in a blanket of bliss. The bliss of the Now.

As a beach lover, I see how the easy rhythm I fall into while combing might be a much tamer version of C.R. Johnson’s exuberant flights on snow-covered mountains, or big-wave surfers thrilling slides down monster waves, or mountain climbers’ oxygen-starved ascents up the world’s highest peaks. One step in the snow, then another, and another and Lo! The summit. One paddle through the water, then another, and another and Whoosh! The wave. One slip through the sand, then another, and another and Ohhh! A beach treasure.

No matter how daring or tame the N-Spot activity, for a brief moment, all is confluence.  We are back in the womb. Nourished. Protected. Euphoric. At one with the elements and nothing else really matters.

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