In January of this year our family of nine people rented a condo on The Strand in Oceanside, California. Upon arrival, we all put our stuff on the living room floor, then we quickly gather outside where we stand in awe as we absorb the beauty and grandeur of the great Pacific Ocean. Encompassed by the ocean breeze, we watch the waves build and then crash against the rocks that are just a few feet in front of us. Mesmerizing. We fall silent watching the unique beauty and power of the waves. All of us, in our own way, remain silent for a moment with private person thoughts and emotions.
Following a day of fun, I sit alone and watch the evening waves while enjoying the encroaching shadows of early night as they relentlessly cover the once sunlit strand. Wine glass empty, I choose to remain in the growing darkness.
Alone in the Dark
The ocean waves play their eternal symphony, and the darkness draws me in. In days gone by I would be thinking about my work or the Corvette I wanted but never got. This evening as an old man, I am drawn inward resting inside my reflections and feelings.
I read somewhere that calmness is mastery. I think such calmness begins by looking at life from the inside out rather than the outside in. The great Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, observed that aging can help move us “from role to soul.” From the external to the internal.
As the ocean waves dissipate, there is an ebb tide, a calmness between low and high tides. In harmony with the quieting waves, I examine myself from within. Above me there are
seagulls in flight,
Connie Sweig in her book The Inner Work of Age says: “Aging from the inside out requires a shift from productivity to contemplation, from money to meaning, from role to soul.” While the obvious list of “to do’s” in aging such as good diet, exercise, and rest are important, they are not all we need. Aging can bring us a new vitality to supplement the growing fatigue and loss that inevitably accompany the aging process. There can be a new found satisfaction in looking at ourselves from the inside out.
Hidden in the Wind
As darkness moves over the water, I become quiet and breathe deeply. Once again Carl Jung comes to mind: “Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakes.” You may have discovered as I have that such moments open us to recognize and examine parts of ourselves that we had not been aware of before. Jung called this the recognition our “shadow self.”
Relaxing my mind and body, I continue to breathe in the clean cool ocean breeze. I remember the universal word for “spirit” is breath, originally from the Latin spiritus. Spiritus means both the wind and breath. When we breathe in part of the breath remains unwitnessed inside of us, while some is exhaled into the world and eventually shared with others. Ruach is the ancient Hebrew world for “wind,” “breath,” and “spirit.” The word appears in the second verse of the Bible’s Old Testament (Genesis 1:2) where the spirit of God hovers over the surface of the waters ready to breathe life into the world. Ruach breathes life into us all and becomes part of us.
The New Testament continues the same thought where the often-used word pneuma means wind, breath, and spirit. In Hinduism, the God Vishnu brings into being a great ocean where he lays down, breaths deeply and time begins. Then Vishnu, the god of creation, sustainer of life, and god of the wind, breath, and sprit, breathes life into humanity and all that is.
As my thoughts wonder, my grandkids come outside to see if I am okay and to tell me it is time to come in. Walking to the condo, a voice from the ever-present waves repeats over and over in my mind: It is the journey, the journey itself that has become home.
sand crabs at play,
waves return to the sea
The Eternal Breeze
I climb into bed, lay quietly, and feel the ocean breeze enter through an open window as I drift into sleep.
Early in the morning, my three grandkids jump into a car and soon return with pastries. Coffee made; we all gather outside on the chairs near the water. The early morning breeze awaits. Stories and laughter accompany the pastries, and there is more. Ruach. The slow-moving ocean breeze sustaining us all.
Written by: Hartzell Cobbs
Hartzell Cobbs is the retired CEO of Mountain States Group (now Jannus, Inc.), a diverse nonprofit human service organization.
Now Available: THE MOON at the WINDOW
***All royalties from “The Moon at the Window” go to support the work of Smart Strategies for Successful Living.
About the Author: With a sprinkling of exuberance and vitality, Dr. Cobbs is an accomplished author of three books and numerous articles published in different venues throughout his life. Dr. Cobbs’ first book, Thanatos and the Sage: A spiritual approach to Aging (2008), offers a thought-provoking interpretation of the interplay between how to live life with meaningful intentions and the eventuality of coming to terms with death. His second book, Ravenwind (2019) delves into the raven’s role as it relates to Native American myths, legends, and folktales and global history. His reflections on the spirituality of living and dying depicted in his books are threaded throughout the short essays posted on the website for “Smart Strategies for Successful Living” and in his latest book, The Moon at the Window.
Smart Strategies for Successful Living provides an international format for writers to share research, thoughts, and experiences on aging well. One of our writers, Hartzell Cobbs, has compiled and edited articles from the past four years and put them in book form. “The book reveals the thoughts and emotions old age has dealt me” says Hartzell. “I have been surprised by how many aging people have similar experiences to my own.” The book has its genesis in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India, and concludes with reflections in the silence of the Arizona desert.
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On behalf of Smart Strategies for Successful Living, a special thanks goes to Hartzell Cobbs for his brilliant works as a guest writer and for donating the book royalties from “The Moon at the Window” to us. We greatly treasure his talents and generous support of our website.