Recently, I was thinking about the time I spent sailing. Many images came to mind – the times I was challenged almost to breaking against 20-foot waves, and times the gentle rocking combined with a glowing sunset were more joy than my heart could hold. But are we all adrift at sea?
How do we find our true path in life while buffeted by circumstance, tossed by emotions like anger, joy, frustration, ecstasy? As I opened my imagination, I realized that there is much to be learned through the process of sailing. It requires a bit of adventure. You have to leave the safe confines of the shore, the predictability of the earth beneath your feet. Even in California, it doesn’t move often! The sea is moody, changing from placid to rolling to violent at will.
Yet a sailor knows how to use the power of the wind to set his own course. He can move into the wind or behind it. “It is the set of the sails and not the gales that determine where he goes.” Some lessons to be learned from a sailor:
- Unless you take command, you will go nowhere. The sails flap, useless, if the ship has no direction. Bobbing up and down, in irons, can be dangerous. You may get hit with a flying mast. Yet this place of non-movement is essential. You cannot go from one direction to another without passing through the stillness. It may look like self-doubt, despair, questioning. Welcome it as a sign that you are making progress in turning toward your goal. Just keep moving.
- Without wind, you are without direction. Sailing requires wind; you cannot count on the current to get you to your destination. And it doesn’t matter what direction the wind takes, you simply adjust your sails. If the wind blows against you, you must tack port and starboard into the wind or you’ll find yourself stopped – or going backward. This zigzag path is the ONLY way to move forward. Calculate where you are in relation to your goal. Set your sails at an angle to the wind and change your direction as often as you must. Find markers and points against the horizon that will help you realize you are making progress.
- Keep your eye on the compass. You may have to head northeast and then northwest to move north. As long as you know where you are going, keep on the path.
- When the wind is behind you, run up extra sail. Sometimes the wind pushes you from behind. You may want to relax, but to reach your goal more quickly, set out all your sails and put up the spinnaker. It’s a bit more work, but you will make better progress if you maintain control. And if you have seen a full spinnaker, you will know it is a beautiful sight.
- Appreciate the journey. The smell of the salt water, the spray of ocean foam, the movement of the waves, the occasional porpoise or dolphin alongside. Wresting the wheel or resting in the sun – it’s all part of the beauty.
The sailing ship is like life in a bottle. And oh, what have I learned!