Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sailing meditates me (Any open water, 6/28/2016)

One of the books I am reading discusses the healing power of water; Wallace Nichols describes in his book Blue Mind: "The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected and Better at What You Do."  It is  a fun and and fascinating book in which I often see myself.  Nichols' book has a similar theme as Richard Louv's books on Nature Deficit Disorder in that Lowe talks about green nature and Nichols talks about blue nature.  But regardless, whether it is the greens or the blues: nature has it.

A picture I took earlier this year on Catalina Island in Maine.  This picture captures the blue and the green that are so important in my life.
What struck me in one of the passages in Nichols' book was his statement about how someone mentioned that once you are near water you do not need to meditate, but that "water meditates you."  I found that a profound statement and it stuck with me.  If you read my previous post <here> where I wrote about when I visit the beach, how I can just sit in the waves for hours; let the water wash over me; forget everything; live in the moment; wait for the next wave; yes, empty my mind; and let it be. It kind of sounds like the definition of meditation to me.  I don't do it consciously, the water does it for me, the water meditates me.  Truthfully, being in nature often does that for me too (I write about it <here>).  Probably less so, because I have to pay attention to what my dogs do, and keep up with my wife who walks faster than I do (we need to get the heart rate up, you know.  Honestly, there is a time for that too.).

I took this picture of a boot at a mooring buoy in the York River some time ago, and I am not sure if I shared it with you already but scenes like this, or doing this, meditates me. 
I was discussing this concept of water meditating me with a good friend at church the other day.  Doc Robin is a band leader, self proclaimed shaman and the leader of the Earth Rising Community in our Unitarian Church.  "I often think that church interferes with my spirituality ... The spirituality that I can get from nature", he quipped when we discussed the concept of nature (or water) meditating you instead of you meditating in nature (or on or near the water).  So there is something to it; being in nature or water, or being able to see it (even in pictures) is good for you, it heals the body and the mind, it lowers anxiety and lowers the blood pressure.

Last week I experienced this again when we went sailing.  You really cannot think about much else when being at the rudder and trying to maintain course and keeping the wind in the sail.  The winds were around 15 knots, which were fairly strong for our small 25 foot boat.  Nothing dangerous, but you need to keep attention to what you are doing, stay in the moment.  Yes, there were dolphins, birds and wonderful weather, but just looking backwards or not paying attention for a few seconds results in a course change, loose the wind out of your sail, or maybe get too much. Even occasionally looking on my tablet (GPS) to see where we were resulted in a course shift.  It could also cause your boat to come about or to gibe.  You had to be in the moment.  I really could not think of anything else that was going on in my life than being right in the moment and concentrating on my sailing, staying on course and reading the wind and the water.

You want to see two people experiencing flow?  Here you have it!  My wife and I look like we are truly enjoying ourselves and I am concentrating on keeping the boat on course and properly into the wind.
Granted, I do not have an autopilot as many people I know have on their boat.  I am not sure if I want one.  I know it would be nice when I solo sail or need to do something in a hurry, but in the past when I sailed on a friend's boat with autopilot it felt that I somehow lost that intimate touch with the water and the wind.  It was great to be on the water and I loved it; it was so much better than being on land, and of course you always have to pay attention, but still, I like the rudder in my hand.  Granted, I have not sailed in my own boat for longer than 4 or 5 hours at a stretch, so time will tell.  On top of that, I always have someone to take over when I have to take a pee-pee break.

After reading Nichols I realized that in reality, our sailing trip "meditated me", there was no time for distractions.  Mihály Csikszentmihálályi describes this as flow.  Flow is an interesting concept that I learned about from a book that he published in 1990 under the same title (boy that was a long time ago that I read that book).  When you are in flow, you are completely absorbed in and energized by what you are doing (no television watching does not count).  Healing at 15 degrees or more, with 15 knot winds and thoroughly enjoying yourself, not thinking about anything else (as I show you in the photograph above), now that is flow.  Kayaking through the marshes, looking at birds and snails hanging on to the marsh grasses is also flow.

I took this picture while kayaking this weekend of all the snails hanging on the the smooth cord grass (Spartina) during high tide.
Think about it folks, get out there, let nature meditate you!  Blue or green, it it good for your physical and mental health.  Go with the flow!

We went kayaking this past weekend.  Another advanture in the blue and green.  My wife took this picture of me, she really had to call be a few times to get my attention and take this picture.  I was absorbed by being out there in it.

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