Ingrid Goff Maidoff - Tending Joy

Celebrating Poetry, Beauty,
& the Sacred Essence of Joy

Finding Oneness by the Shoreline

 (What if the experience of oneness didn’t make you more
beautiful or radiant, or special- as so many teachers promise?
What if it simply made you a little softer, a little kinder,
a little more human?  Would you still long for it?
Last month, with a pinched nerve in my neck, I visited a friend on Tybee Island, Georgia.
These are notes from my beach walks there. )

I walk the shoreline, mist drenched morning, ocean soothing in. 
The Gulls seem to be napping, grouped in stillness, 
facing into the breeze, one eye open.  

I think I want gifts from the sea, and that I will find some pretty shells.  

My body is tired,  neck weary and in pain.  I cannot walk very far. 

What I really want is to let go of a lot of things-
some burdens that I’ve been carrying;
assumptions that no longer serve me;
the busyness of my life. 



I think I want special wisdom; healing;
something to make me smarter.

I sit on a bench and wait.

Instead of special wisdom, I hear this:
Listen, the world has no secrets-
only as of yet, for you,
unheard of, undiscovered things.

I go back to collecting shells.
Every morning for two weeks,
I wander the beach distracted.

At first I want only the shells that are perfect and unique.
Eventually, I begin to see the beauty

in broken things. 

I feel some pride in this-
perhaps it is my gift from the sea. 

…One day I look up from my quest
for shells along the shore, and see:
I had become so absorbed in my search for pretty things,
I had become unaware of the magnificent vastness-
I looked up to see the water,
to pause and to breathe in the blueness,
to feel the mist on my face. 

Something in me opened, sighed,
blossomed, emptied and filled.
It felt as though I was receiving
everything and no thing,
a relaxation, a dawning, a download-
an infinite, unnameable mystery:
the oneness of the ocean, wind, sun, sky,
my own soul and humanity-
humanity which had arrived to comingle, play, and delight in the beauty.

That was the best day.

The people on Tybee are friendly-
even the boys at the convenience store

have kind and tender eyes.
Some call this Southern Hospitality-
but what I felt was a basic sense of humanity,
family, kinship, humility and belonging.

Walking the shore, approaching others,
we would greet and exchange stories-
unafraid to ask each stranger how they’ve been.

It’s as if we are all in this together.
This life.  On this planet.  This. 

And we know it. 

And we don’t mind.  

In fact, we like it that way.

Some epiphanies are gentle, like the breeze across your brow. 
That breeze is always there, kissing your cheek if you allow it. 


Joy isn’t a carrot dangling before your nose, urging you to pursue it.
Joy isn’t found in the acquisition of shells….or any other things.
Joy isn’t the ever-receding horizon of a future better life.

Rabindranath Tagore said,
“Joy is the realization of the truth of our oneness-
the oneness of our soul with the world soul, 
and of the world soul with supreme love.”

Looking up from the shell strewn sand,
I experienced a taste of this oneness.

I felt a softening, a surrender,
a relaxation; a trust;
simplicity, humility, belonging- the calm wisdom of the heart.

Tending Joy is allowing joy, welcoming joy,
practicing, feeling, and caring for joy.
It’s a kind of resting. 

Not seeking or striving, but inviting,
melting barriers,
letting go resistance.
There’s a kind of gentleness to it-
a friendliness and curiosity, openness and humility.

Allowing ourselves to feel oneness, we allow ourselves to feel joy-
to feel that we are part of the human family and the greater mystery:
human, frail, flawed, vulnerable, earnest, loving, generous, divine.

On my last morning I am up for the sunrise
and it occurs to me
that the sun rises with opulent fanfare above the horizon every dawn,
regardless of whether I’ve awoken soon enough to see it.
It’s not about me.
Yet I can participate if I want to.




Tags: Posted in Oneness, Tending Joy |

5 Responses

  1. katy taylor says:

    thank you, ingrid. i am in the midst of a similar time in my life. learning to do less, to slow down, to let go. i find that when i take the time to actually experience my life, joy is there. i’ve been blogging about this journey, too.

    just this morning i got your Joy Book out again and read and colored. thank you for this beautiful reminder and inspiration!

    blessings on your healing and savoring of your life, katy

  2. MJ Bindu says:

    Ingrid, What a blessing to find your tending joy postcard and blog! I’m in the office today getting ready to continue writing about my retreat in Bequia and your reflections have inspired me once again.

    This “sitting with” all that is brings me great joy and peace some days…other days I feel like I cannot reach that place of receiving and letting life come to me. Your beautiful words are a meditation in motion that resonate throughout my body. They remind me of gathering shells, the focus, and your connection with humanity! thank you and healing wishes, MJ

  3. Helene Brown says:

    Ingrid, Thank you so much for your beautiful words and insights. Your message has such healing qualities in it, which we all need. You encourage me to take a similar journey as I, too, have been dealing with an entrapped nerve which is causing discomfort. I am so encouraged by your wisdom which speaks to all the possibilities that can lead one to much greater peace and fulfillment, the nuturing of the soul which from all emerges. Ingrid, I wish you healing energy so you can carry on with the wonderful and meaningful messages you bring to others. You are such an inspiration! Many blessings to you. Helene

  4. ingrid says:

    Dear beautiful sisters, I feel seen and heard and held by your loving comments and by the many emails I’ve been receiving. Katie, I love your blog. What you write and collage is so familiar to me! My soul resonates. MJ, we WILL enjoy retreats together some day soon. You have so much to offer and I feel so blessed to be your friend. And Helene, I hope your entrapped nerve finds healing and release soon if it hasn’t already! I’m learning a lot from this, though I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It has been a blessing though, to listen to my body and love my way into next steps.

  5. Jan says:

    Ingrid, what a joy to read your beach ponderings. They do remind of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s thoughts in Gift from the Sea. Perhaps you will bind these into a beautiful gathering of beach reflections of your own. Your eyes see the world in such a unique way, as does your heart. 🙂 The insights you share here are deeply profound and truly reflective of our human experience. As well as the deep longing for the Divine…

    I loved the line about our brokenness. I found this too when I was shelling. No one wanted the broken shells. Tossed them all back as if defective. I became more and more drawn to the broken, battered, chipped ones because they reminded me of people and how we are from life. I collected an entire jar full of broken King Conchs.

    Thank you for your lovely words of healing here. May our prayers buoy you along… We love you, Ingrid, and so want you to be well!

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