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.
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.