There was this brief moment the other week where, while sitting on the sand on a warm fall day, the waves crashing onto the shore and making that shhhhhhhhh sound that they make I felt, well, normal.
The day’s to-do’s and life’s anxieties washed over me and I was just feeling, well, fine.
And as I started to pay attention to what I was doing — sitting on the beach, listening to the waves — that fine feeling started to shift towards something closer to serenity.
That serenity led to real peace and happiness, at least for the moment.
Very quickly thereafter I remembered how much tax debt I’d put myself in due to some irresponsible investments I’d made; that I recently went through a breakup and how extraordinarily painful that was and still feels at times; that my close friend had lost a sibling; and that due to a major collapse in my mental health in the middle of 2022, my filmmaking dreams had often been punted into oblivion.
But for a moment, serenity.
I was at a lunch gathering recently, and someone asked the group what we thought of the word serenity.
One member quickly jumped in with something that I had to immediately jot down in my phone:
Serenity is what you get to every once in a while for a teeny, little bit.
I’ve been reading this Thich Nhat Hanh book called, "How to Focus." (And really it’s about How to be Present, but Focus is more marketable.)
In it, he writes about this notion of focus as simply paying attention to what’s happening at the moment.
As we sit on the grass with our mind elsewhere, we may have a neutral feeling. But when we bring our awareness to the neutral feeling, we find that it’s really quite wonderful to be sitting on the grass in the sunshine.
Almost every day, while living in Turkey and in Japan, after doing some form of exercise, I would stop at a coffee shop or by a river or a body of water.
And I would sit there, sip my coffee, and take in the world.
In hindsight, these moments were incredibly mundane.
But at the time, I remember them often feeling peaceful and even enjoyable.
Just letting the world pass me by and fill me up with gratitude and joy, at times.
Even if the rest of my day was chaotic or otherwise difficult and painful, having those moments every morning (and sometimes in the afternoon, too) was incredibly important to me.
It’s in these moments that we remind ourselves that whatever chaos might be happening around us, things ain’t that bad.
I try to find spaces that are conducive to this — it typically requires me to get out of my house, as sitting in front of a computer screen no matter how immaculately lit or peaceful your space might be is often a recipe for disaster.
And then I’ll sit there — sometimes I’ll meditate, or do a breathwork app, or journal — but often I’m just sitting there. And I’m observing the world around me and my thoughts and my breath.
And if I can get to serenity — even for just a teeny little bit — that’s good enough for me.