“A happy life consists in tranquility of mind.”
In need of a break, I took a day off from work to spend at the beach. It was late October, still warm enough to enjoy the Florida sun without the summer crowds. In fact, the beach was deserted. Book in hand, I walked to a quiet spot and settled into my little beach chair, my toes just touching the shallow waves. I was alone.
From the distance, a single pelican glided into view, dipped its wings and landed in the water, not 20 yards from me. She barely bobbed in the surf, slowly rotating until facing me, and then stopped turning – and just stared in my direction.
I stared back.
We both sat on the empty beach, both perfectly still, simply looking at each other. Pelicans have little eyes, but I could see hers clearly, and she was looking straight back into mine. She appeared to be calm and relaxed.
Only later did I realize that my body had begun to relax, too. I had stopped thinking about everything – my breathing had steadied, my mind was calm. Gazing steadily into the bird’s eyes for what seemed like minutes, all my thoughts had dissolved away. Eventually, my little friend slowly took flight and disappeared, but not before leaving me tranquil.
Only much later did I realize I had stumbled into some form of focal point meditation, with my entire focus centered on the eyes of a pelican.
To this day, when the stresses of everyday life threaten to overwhelm me, I allow my thoughts to drift back to that quiet spot on my empty beach, where I find myself sitting in my little lawn chair, the waves rolling into the sand. I’m sure my eyes gloss over a bit, because while I’m physically present in one place, my inner eye is somewhere else, seeing only calm – and then peace fills me because I’m once again staring into the gentle, quiet eyes of a pelican.