This is a Leonard Cohen line from his poem Good Advice For Someone Like Me.  Wonderfully, I came across it just after I’d swum across Bondi beach, alone, the other day. This swim – about 1km in open water, out past the surfers and breaks – has become a lovely habit. Whenever I’m off balance or particularly “thyroidy” I find myself craving it. I look up the surf cams on the Internet as soon as I wake to check the sea is not too rough (if it is, I swim at the nearby ocean pools). At the south end of Bondi there’s always a rip that carries you straight out. Dangerous and scary if straight out is not what you’re after. Once out beyond the people, I make my way north across the bay, slowly and methodically, the water like oil around my body and not a soul in sight. Just the rippled sand below.

Photo by @denoodle
Photo by @denoodle

Each time I do the swim I emerge calm, my inflammation pacified, my body tingling with a sense of satiation.

This particular day, an hour or two after I’d finished the swim, I was wondering what it was about this swim that cures and calms. And then this Cohen poignancy.

It’s the imperative tense of it that appeals. I’m going to say it. Once. Again. Returning to ourselves, lessening the constant “turning outwards” to Twitter, TV, pinging and piling up commitments on weekends, is imperative. For, it’s this forever-outwards movement away from our true selves that makes us sad and sick. We abandon ourselves each time we do it. And there is no lonelier feeling than when we abandon ourselves.

Plus, as I’ll say – Once. Again – no one is going to shift us inwards and cure our pain for us. We have to do it ourselves.

Consider this: turning outwards to someone or somebody else to take us inwards makes no sense. It’s madness. Literally.

So we have to become the ocean. Which is to become our true selves. Just as my eyebrow is not separate from my body (it’s just a cellular expression made up of the same DNA as the rest of me), and a wave is not separate from the ocean, we are not separate from everything else on the planet. We are a cellular expression of the ocean, too. This ain’t no fluffy amethyst prose. It’s a matter of matter.

When we resist this truth, and think we are separate, we are like a flimsy canoe bobbing atop reality. Trying to keep separate and be firm against the currents. And this, indeed, makes us seasick.

I forget I’m the ocean every day and this leaves me nauseous. Everything churns, life is turbulent and irritating. It doesn’t fit and I get antsy. I’ve learned I have to do things to remind myself of the truth. I do ocean swims, hikes. I meditate and seek out quiet moments on the loo.

It’s my responsibility to do this.

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Daniel L

    Absolutely brilliant post Sarah ! I love it ! Enjoy being the ocean forever …

    “…If you are living at the surface of life, riding the waves, you need
    that little boat and you constantly seek company in there to endure all
    the seasickness and storms. If you are the ocean, you don’t need the
    boat. You don’t need to get in the boat with others and you don’t need
    to drag others into yours. You can just be the ocean and heal yourself
    and others as you spread love and stay calm and peaceful in the moment.”

  • Nourishing Cells

    Wonderfully written!

  • Clare Walpole

    Wow! So well written, I love your honesty Sarah. My favourite line: “there is no lonelier feeling than when we abandon ourselves” I really resonate with this

  • heatherconroy

    “Consider this: turning outwards to someone or somebody else to take us inwards makes no sense. It’s madness. Literally”

    I have to agree that it is an unfortunate state of affairs if you have arrived at adulthood without this skill- if no one ( parents, carers) has privileged your emotional needs and feelings as a developing person-so you do not understand the importance of turning inward to check on yourself and privilege your needs. As a therapist this is very often my privilege – to help people turn inward, to accompany them on what is often a terrifying journey. Go well.

  • Al

    One of your best blog entries I’ve read. The idea of being true to ourselves and how this affects us on a cellular level is so true. Thank you.

  • Japolina

    I’ve never heard that quote before butI love it! Thanks for sharing

  • Fiona

    Sometimes … we find that moment, when we realise we are not the only ones feeling like we do. Thanks Sarah, nice to read that I am not Robinson Caruso with these feelings 🙂

  • Beautiful post. I read the poem slightly differently (bringing all my baggage to the interpretation no doubt). To me becoming the ocean is more about abandoning that expectation that we need to calm the sea. That we need to control it, that we can control it, that it should meet our expectations of the sea. That we can be ok through the roiling and the storm, if we stop trying to fight it.

    But that is all because I see the Ocean as life and I think that your interpretation is that the Ocean is me. Two sides, one coin etc.

    I suspect though, that the poem is Cohen saying in part that it is easier to fit in or f*ck off if you want to survive.

  • mw

    I lot of what you are describing here is quiet, alone time .. which I also need a lot of. I like the way that you are clearly marking these activities as your ‘responsibility’, instead of your ‘need.’ Words are so powerful and they carry connotations that can be easily misunderstood. I agree with you that it is your responsibility, even if it is also a need. May the ocean be in you !

  • Natalie

    Great post Sarah. I found just before the new year that I had too long been avoiding this responsibility to myself, finding other ways to escape. Then I returned to yoga, something I’ve tried on & off for years, but it’s finally made sense to me now. It gives me the opportunity to come inside myself & realign, otherwise I feel stretched & torn, in tatters, & like you say, ‘sea sick’.

  • Awesome post. I love swimming in the ocean. However, I need some help. Does anyone have a trick for not thinking about sharks? I realise we’re more likely to be hit by a car, so I think my fear is a bit irrational x

    • i kind of like the slight thrill of it all….

      • aha! that’s genius to turn it around like that. I’ll have to give it a whirl x

  • crispin

    Hi Sarah

    I wanted to say thank you for your blog. I am having my own digestion issues at the moment and have found your story and all the information you have posted here so very helpful. Thank you for being so open with your life. x

  • Sally

    Reminded me of one of my very favourite quotes: ‘The cure for anything is salt water – tears, sweat, or the sea.’ (Isak Dinesen)

  • V

    I love it too!! I also get thyroidy and an ocean swim at Manly soothes my body, mind and soul. Thanks for sharing these conections.

    • Lauren Raso

      There is a physiological reason behind this feeling V and Sarah are talking about! Pretty amazing stuff going on!

  • DP

    Congratulations on the swim. With all the training you’ve been doing, I wonder how long it is since you’ve had an osteopathic treatment. Some of your symptoms sound very similar to mine. They improved considerably after some work on my thoracic spine. Wonder if it could be something similar for you? Please excuse me commenting in public but I’ve been thinking about this for a while since I’ve been following for you for a while. All the best.

  • michky

    great post today sarah. you have inspired me to get over my fear of swimming way out the back. i tend to just wallow in the shallows, which is probably as symbolic to me as diving in the deep is to you. thanks for reminding me that nature is our greatest teacher

  • Ms Jane

    I love this “quiet moments on the loo”. I thought I was the only one who did this! And what’s funny too is that my dog has started coming in with me to escape the kids and get some peace and quiet…is that weird that I’m going to the loo with my dog??!!!!

    • Nat

      My cat meows like a baby outside the loo till I open the door, then he joins me in the toilet LOL

  • Miche

    I need to do more of that, myself. Been living in a beach house for over a year, and only done it once. Imagine if the healing I’m searching for is right under my nose. Thank you got blogging this, Sarah.

  • Belinda

    Love it……I too swim in the ocean often alone up here in Qld.
    Everyone thinks I am crazy…but they have no idea what they are missing! Keep enjoying……

  • Matthew Cheyne

    We are already the ocean. We just spend our lives denying this fact to ourselves, obscuring it with the notion of me, my and mine.

  • Loli

    love this post, Sarah. this message of, “we are not separate from everything else on the planet” has been consistently popping up in my life recently. Thanks for being one of them! Taking it to heart. xo – loli

  • Eat Well Travel Often

    We are a cellular expression of the ocean – I love this!

  • Nerida

    Hi Sarah

    I too have been swimming but not in your wonderful sea but in the bay in Melbourne. I do think the cold water has something to do with it and have been replicating the charge it gives me with more convenient cold showers. They seem to work by opening up the circulation and stimulating the vegus nerve – both good for the immune system, But you are right – sea is best where ever it is. Best wishes

  • A wonderful reminder to surrender, let go and trust. We can’t control everything even though the majority of us try our very hardest to!

  • dg

    Excuse the pedantry but ‘nauseous’ means ‘causing nausea’. I think you meant ‘nauseated’.

    I take your point though. Interesting thought and article.

  • Christine Chang

    Yes! I was feeling particularly vata today (it’s a bit windy here in Adelaide) and choosing to stay in, eat vegetables and drink tea, basically get back in touch with my ocean has been really good.

  • This is so true. Happiness can only be found within ourselves, and it takes some hard times to get to that point — we have to learn to ride with the waves. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, Sarah, especially when my health was at my worst. Your blog has helped me so much. I love your writing style and the beautiful way you put together real human experiences. Also, the dialogue your readers share with each other — it gives us “sickies” hope and connection. It has inspired me to start documenting my lessons learned as well. Though I consider you my “online guru,” I truly think you may enjoy and learn something from a blog post I just wrote. And if you gave me feedback? Let’s just say I’d have to pinch myself. Here Sarah, and to all of Sarah’s readers, check out my POV on having faith that life’s turbulence will eventually lead you to your best days:

  • Nicole Fletcher

    Sarah! Loving this post—I am exactly the same, and it makes the thought of living away from water hard to bear. Though I’m a little late to the game, I thought I’d share this article that you might enjoy about how ocean dips activate our cold sensors which act as natural pain-killers!