Being on an island, or being at the beach, connects you very strongly to your senses. You look at the blue, hear the waves, smell the water, taste the salt, feel the wind.
I believe that’s the reason that so many seaside cultures seem to live naturally in the present moment. The things that are part of the mindfulness practice are automatic here. I think this is more typical of any warm place by the sea, where you tend to expose more of your body to the experience. For myself, I find the cold an interruption to the natural meditative state by the ocean. I also think the place has to be small — there is no automatic calm silence for you to sink into in a big city by the seaside. Living in NYC, I’ve been to beach here only 3 or 4 times. I’ve enjoyed it every time, but it just seems hard to carve the time out of the busy day-to-day of a big city to make it to the beach.
It is interesting to strike up conversations with people who have chosen to move to the laid-back ocean-side lifestyle. I recall a conversation with Nat, who is Italian, and was running a hotel that we stayed in. He told me he moved to Grenada because “you come to the Caribbean if you don’t want to bother anyone, and don’t want anyone to bother you.”
While in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I also glanced through a book of speeches by their last prime minister, James Mitchell, a well respected figure who had been a major political figure in the Caribbean for a long time. One of the most frequent words in his many speeches was “banana”. For me, it is a convenient food item that I don’t particularly relish. For him, it is a cornerstone of foreign policy and his country’s economic agenda. There is something charming about a country more concerned about bananas than, say, nuclear missiles.
That is the very essence of how your priorities seem to shift when you are sitting by the tropical seaside.