Full Sails

Body Types - in an era of political correctness, this is sure to be a loaded subject. However, once the knowledge (of) is studied, observed and subsequently verified, a recognition of one's own mechanicality and individual body type ultimately dawns. As much as this understanding is wonderful when it comes to the various idiosyncrasies of human relationships, it is in the first place most useful when it comes to understanding why, as supposed individuals, we behave in certain and definite ways. There is a line to be found between our own human will, our desire to ‘do’, and the service of unity consciousness – the highest right. I am an active type, Solar Mercury Saturn, nervous system stretched taught and ready for action. I have what we would call a useful, if exhausting, set of mechanics.  A friend with a similar set of mechanics summed it up perfectly: we would find something to do in a lift. Absolutely true, I sometimes catch myself rubbing finger marks off the brass panels. If this level of activity was confined to being punctilious in matters of domestic hygiene and order, I would be delighted as I could live in a weirdly clean and orderly house and be surrendered to the will of the higher. Its not. It pervades all things as our mechanics do.


How to find the line?


On Sunday I was struggling, I had over committed myself again. Filled my diary for the next few months, had been caught again in the ‘doing’. I had also entirely ignored my own preferences, my own physical warning signs (stress, anxiety, low energy) and ploughed on. Fear keeps me ploughing on: what if I don’t do this, I might miss out on that, and they might do the other. Nervous system stretched so that it becomes hard. Impossible to meditate or concentrate; restless.

Then an image arrived, perfectly and fully, like a download:

I am on a vast ocean, sapphire blue to a 360 degree horizon, calm. I am in my sailboat, the sun is hot and I am standing up, feet braced to balance. I am furiously blowing into the sails; the effort to keep filling my lungs and blow is enormous. With each breath, the mainsail flutters very slightly, but I cannot work out how to fill the jib too. There is a panic in it all and hopelessness to the scene but I do not see it. I do not see the impossibility of the task. Crucially, I do not see that I am head to wind – even if there were forty four of me, or fifty five, the sails would not properly fill. There might be some movement but the effort would far outweigh the result. Then I have a thought, its not my thought, it comes in from somewhere: sit down, rest against the transom, tilt the tiller towards me and I will fill your sails. I do it, they fill, the boat leans into the wind perfectly counterbalanced, smooth and up on a plane, all I am required to do is steer, trim the sails and watch the wind, feel for its power.

Then the tears come. Tears of gratitude, of joy, of relief.

As this image settled in, I felt it soften me, loosen my stretched nerves, relax my hardened brain. As if light were pouring in and gently easing the cells out of the shock of the effort I was forcing them to endure.


The clarity of this simple image startled me and in a few minutes, all the knowledge and understanding was distilled into this perfect scene. The boat is the machine – it is designed to serve the wind, to plane across the ocean with ease and the wind serves it by its constant guidance, movement and flow.

In order for the boat to be seaworthy we work on it. Where the sails are too big because we preferred vanity and power to seaworthiness, we must adjust their size then trim them in – reign in the fear that pushes us toward power rather than wisdom. Where the keel has too much drag because we haven’t bothered to go under the waterline and clean the weed and barnacles off it - preferring not to look into our dark places, hoping that they will stay out of sight and out of mind - we must tend to this so that we may increase our potential when the wind comes. The ropes are used to buffer the shocks of the journey, they can be adjusted to keep us upright if the storms hit, or to take advantage of the strong gusts.

We work on the machine to make it ready – not because it is an end in itself because the sailboat without the sailor is useless and the sailor without the wind is, well, exhausted, stressed and blind to the help that is there all the time.

The sailor is the soul; it is what connects the boat to the wind. In this vision, the act of tilting the tiller towards the wind is the act of surrender to the higher. It is an act of faith and trust. When the soul believes itself to be alone on the sea, it leaves its station at the helm and tries to ‘do’ what only the wind can do. When it has grown in wisdom sufficiently to know that there is no alone, it takes up its proper position at the helm: mastering the machine, following the wind.

Safe Harbours

After the image had come, I sat for a long time. Thoughts came and went, one of them stubborn – a product of my fear: what if I could find a harbour and just stay there and sit it out, tied up on some friendly quay? Didn’t Milton say ‘They also serve who only stand and wait?’

Yes, came the answer. You can sit in any safe harbor – there are many and the attractions are innumerable, not least the siren call of the known. In the harbour there is no need to work on the boat, as long as it stays afloat it will do and the soul can stay aboard and doze in the life of the harbor.

It is this decision that is the only true act of free will – to put to sea or not?

Sailboats look beautiful on a quayside, glamorous and full of promise but on the ocean? My goodness they are magnificent, glorious. Every part of the machine in harmony with the other, sails full, keel cutting, responding to the will of the sailor, her will directed by the wind – all promise fulfilled, a miracle of trust.

We are designed for the vast ocean and the great wind, we just have to let them carry us.