I was never a big fan of oceans or beaches until my thirties, then I became inexplicably drawn to the sea.
Before that, I'd show up with sneakers and socks and just bide my time. I was indifferent about the water. I detested the sand.
When my two kids were small we began taking vacations to the ocean. After playing with them in the tide and returning them to the blanket to play in the sand, I felt pulled back to the water.
I watched one wave after another approach at eye level. I became excited as big, crashing wave approached. I felt a kinship with the children squealing with delight at the big wave approached and splashed against us. I didn't squeal, but any age difference was erased as I anticipated the excitement of that moment.
Sea-ing for the First time
I focused on the incoming ripples and waves. I couldn't pull myself away. I responded to wave after wave after wave, bobbiing over them or allowing the big ones to ride me in a few feet, then turning to face the next one.
After a few summers of this, I realized what was happening. I had reached an intersection of life in which my age and the accelerated pace of our digital culture required recalibration. My internal beat was being reset by the metronome that is the rhythm of the tide. Staring at the calm blue water was meditative.
At this time I also noticed on the beaches in early morning or evening, mostly middle aged men practicing tai chi, slow and graceful postures of arm and leg movements, part exerise and part meditation. More on that.
I live in Ohio, so the beach trips are, at best, annual. But at the same I experienced another pull toward nature. While walking my dog I found myself kicking off my shoes while walking across wide green meadows.
Wiithout even realizing it, I would look forward to it, feeling the warmth of the ground, the texture of the grass, and just a general feeling of energy and wellness.
In small talk, I mentioned this to a massage therapist friend, who said, "You're earthing."
I never heard of it before. Earthing is a belief that being in direct connect with the earth, grounded to the earth's electrical charges, provides natural health benefits. Wearing most shoes prevents that conductivity, so earth is mostly associated with barefoot walking on the ground.
Just as a plant will bend toward the sun, I was naturally drawn to both sea and ground without thinking about it.
To complement this, I began to work out more. In addition to walking, I adopted a regimen of light calisthentics and even joined a gym. While following workout videos at home on Youtube, I learned more about tai chi and began doing beginner postures.
Today it feels like the perfect complement to the sea and earth sources of wellness that I have experienced. The movements replicate how our limbs move in the water. There is a stillness and grace, an inspiring blend of motion and breathing, and a direct connection to nature. So it stands to reason why so many tai chi instructors set videos by the sea, river, canyon, trail and other natural settings.
My arms and hands move water. My body sways and shakes like a tree in the wind. My palms become clouds moving across the sky. My feet are planted in the floor like tree roots.
I follow a good number of tai chi instructors. Here is the first one.I continue to take daily walks on nature trails, earthing when weather permits. I look forward to visiting the ocean, but that is at best an annual treat. In the meantime, tai chi gives me access to the natural wellness resource that gives me easy everyday access to the benefits provided by sea and earth.
Mark Morelli is a New York Times Bestseller reader.