I recently had the opportunity to spend a week at the beach in southern Florida. For the entire week, the weather was beautiful, sunny, and warm, affording hours each day for my love and me to relax in the calm water and on the beach.
What a soothing experience it was: no structure, no expectations and lots of time to chat, laugh, brainstorm and daydream. It was a complete escape from our typical daily responsibilities.
Shell seeking is one of my favorite beach activities. I spent time each day collecting a small cup of unique finds. I sorted through them as I cleaned them after we left the beach each day, and again sorted through the entire collection once I returned home. Cleaning and sorting the collection is almost as much fun as finding the individual gems. I found conch, cockle, olive and whelk shells, pieces of coral and sea glass.
Unlike many activities in my everyday life, I find myself quickly absorbed in the activity of combing the beach. My eyes are on the sand and my focus is solely on examining each piece I find deciding whether I want to keep it.
I can feel each careful step I take and the warmth of the sun on my shoulders. I can hear the roar of the ocean and the laughter of children playing. Time stops, my worries disappear and my self-talk ceases as I move slowly and enjoy the surprise of what I encounter. I love it.
Minimalism Lessons from the Beach
I sought a small collection of nature’s beauty to take with me as a free memento of the visit. As a minimalist, I wondered about why I find such sheer pleasure in collecting seashells. I believe it is because through their beauty and simplicity, they remind me of the deeper meaning of life.
Here are a few minimalist lessons from beachcombing:
1. Go slowly.
I approach shell seeking in an almost meditative state. I focus solely on the task with keen vision for what I want to find. If you focus on what you wish to find in life, it will reveal itself to you. This requires presence, faith and patience.
Do one thing at a time, relax, forgive, and move forward. Spend time discovering what inspires you, defining what you enjoy and desire, and discerning what you can offer to others and the world.
2. Be selective.
Beachcombing requires ongoing grasping, examining, evaluating, and releasing. After a while, I fall into a rhythm and am quickly able to decide what to keep and what to release. I returned home with a small collection of what I found most pleasing.
Our belongings should bring us pleasure, not weigh us down. If you are struggling with the weight of having too much stuff to care for and store, examine it, evaluate it, and let some of it go. This principle applies not only to belongings, but also to thoughts and feelings. This is a very personalized and progressive process.
3. Seize opportunities.
Sometimes I spy what appears to be a beautiful shell in the surf, but if I don’t grab it or at least secure it with my foot for further examination, it will be gone from me forever. If we spend too much time pausing before acting, we miss unique opportunities.
If we’re distracted by our newsfeed and our never-ending to do lists, our heads are buried in the proverbial sand. Let’s put our phones away and keep our eyes open for invitations and opportunities.
4. Appreciate the beauty of imperfection.
I found some tiny, perfect shells; they were difficult to spot on the beach, and they get lost in my collection. I also found beautiful pieces of larger shells that had been broken apart by the surf. Their unique colors and markings intrigued me. I wondered about how they fit into a larger whole. I found a few pieces of sea glass. I like to touch the smoothness that was once jagged edge now softened by the sea.
Examine yourself carefully. Are your rough edges or broken parts qualities that make you strong and interesting? Do you have lessons to share with others about the path you’ve traveled? How has your journey formed you into your current state of existence? In what ways can you repair or improve yourself? Who are you at your beautiful core of imperfection?
5. Pare it down.
Seashells remind me of bare bones. They speak to me of the pleasure found in paring down to the basics and searching for universal truths and deeper meaning. Through exposure of our core comes feelings of both freedom and connection.
I look forward to my next visit to the beach and its inherent shell seeking experience. I enjoy thinking about the lessons I recently learned, and each day I aim to apply those lessons in my life.