The Ocean as Healer

Written By: Karen Giles

I don’t know how this story will end, but this much I know – sometimes life leads us far away from home only to realize that home is where we need to be.

Growing up in Setauket, I was raised spending lots of time outdoors.  In the summer, that meant at least a day or two each week at Cupsogue Beach.  My mother went there when she was a child and each week she assembled me, my brothers and usually a friend or two to spend the day at the ocean.

Over the years, Cupsogue has been my spiritual renewal place.  It was there that I walked along the beach with my mother, friends and eventually boyfriends sharing dreams, joys and fears as life unfolded.  While there are many examples of the ocean’s healing power in my life, I remember so clearly coming back home from Connecticut after being laid off from my first job out of college.  I was crushed!  All my mother could do was pack me up each morning and drive me to Cupsogue.  I sat on the beach, cried, walked, basked in the sun and let the rhythm of the waves work their magic.  It was the best medicine and I returned to Connecticut after a few days, ready to search for my next job.

For many years, as I moved around the country for my career path, I always came back to Long Island to visit and reconnect.  No matter what season, if I could get in a walk or even a glimpse of the ocean, that’s where I would head.  Sometimes it was a lucky day that a drive out on Dune Road to Cupsogue “off season” was rewarded with wide open beach and sunshine that begged to bring out a chair and soak it all in, even with a winter coat on!

While in school in Maryland for what is now my professional calling in life as an acupuncturist, I had a project that required me to describe a place that gave me deep peace in body and soul.  I wrote about Cupsogue – the color of the sand against the rich hues of the ocean, the smell of the water, how the sun shifted after 3pm and reflected in a way that looked like a sea of gemstones. I wrote of how I wanted to create a treatment room that had all the colors of Cupsogue and the ocean.  (I am pretty close right now but don’t have the ability to change the office carpeting to ocean blue/green!).  And though I have been to some beautiful beaches around the country and world, nothing feels like the sand on the beaches out east here.  Like soft powdered sugar!

After 20 years, several moves to pursue career opportunities and declaring I would “never move back to Long Island”, I returned in 2007.  Since then, I realized that I moved back here to heal and mature in my heart.  I never saw this coming!  Since being back, Cupsogue is where I have spent time with new friends, but also with someone special who helped me open my heart to a relationship and love. It was also through this new phase of life that I was introduced to Montauk.  One of our first dates was a day trip to Montauk in 2010 and I knew that I had been blessed with another deeply spiritual place to explore.  Over the next several years I was initiated into beach camping at Shagwong Point and quickly took to the simplicity and rhythms of life in a slide-on camper.  I have never experienced anything like a few nights sleeping out on the point overlooking Montauk Harbor.  Nothing fancy, simply and powerfully beyond words.

Today I am grateful to do work that allows me to use my connection with nature to help others along their way in body and life.  My time at the ocean each season helps me grow in my work and what I offer to those I serve.

Some things have changed in the last several months and I once again look to the ocean to heal my heart.  I have designed my own “retreat” days to journal, meditate to the sound of the ocean and shed a few tears.  Then let the sunshine and salt water wash the tears away and soothe my soul.   I know that whatever I need I can always find sitting by the ocean and listening to its power.  For me, that is my church and what I instinctively returned to Long Island to receive.

I don’t know how this story will end, but I do know that I will continue to rely on east end ocean beaches that give me such peace and strength, trusting the sand and waves to help me navigate the mystery that lies ahead.