Zensekai (zen's world under sail)

The sailing adventures of s/v Zen and crew

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Spiritual Sailor

I am currently reading The Tao of Sailing, written by a sailor naturally and being a student of the Tao and a fan of Tao Te Ching I find it interesting how the author ties it with the art of sailing, perfect sense to me. Of course in the Taoist/Zen thought/mind everything is tied together. I just recently finished reading a book called Journey of a Hope Merchant an excellent book for those of you interested a sailors adventure of life, death and love struggles. If it was movie ( and it maybe at some point) it would be a good date movie. I had the chance to ask the author a personal question about his spiritual ideals before and after his voyages. I was pleasantly surprised at his willing openness to share his thoughts. Then there is the sailing Zen master in Japan who teaches his advanced students elements of Zen he came to understand whilst doing his ocean voyages. Another simple yet gratifying brief contact moment of even getting a reply from him. I have touched here before in my verbal ramblings about my feelings on Zen/Tai Chi/Feng Shui /the Tao and Sailing
I understand that being a sailor does not make one naturally spiritual any more than it makes one an environmentalist. I was only slightly shocked to recently read an on-line newsgroup posting about yacht clubs and Black members. One person in NY stated it was their clubs unofficial policy not to rent slip space to Blacks for obvious reasons. I did not understand what the obvious reasons were, nor did I get an answer from the poster. I do know that obviously this was not a spiritual minded club. The sea, the earth, the wind does not discriminate. The wrath of nature will take everyone whose time is up, or does something very stupid, with no care to race, color or creed.
Now, understand when I refer to spiritualness I am not talking about religion. Religion and Spiritualness are different. The KKK is full of religious people, wars are fought over religion, Baby Bush is religious. Religion does a fair amount of separating humans, Spiritualness brings us together. I believe God/the Universe/The Great Spirit/ The Creator/Jah/The Force whatever limiting name mankind places on Him/Her/It is more concerned, if one can say that, with humankinds true heartfelt Spiritualness than, the bible thumpers who preach fire and brim stone versions of "their true brand” of religion. I think the true message of Jesus / Mohammad / Buddha the like is about true Spiritualness.
Back to sailing, is there something in the act of sailing that touches some people to the degree that they get a spiritual enlightenment? Perhaps it is some type of trigger for those who are already of that mindset. I know there are many many more sailors out there than I have or will ever encounter, and many of those are far less than spiritual. However those that I have encountered all for the most part share the same basic spiritual awareness that we are but a small part of the greater whole and should respect each other as such. To disrespect a part of nature is to disrespect ourselves. So are sailors on a whole more spiritual? I guess that would depend on who and what it is compared to, however I think on a whole the very act, the need to sail, the desire to connect to the wind and water, to achieve that Feng Shui Harmony, Yin Yang balance, without the noise & pollution of man-made propulsion is, even if not seen/recognized as such, a calling of the Spirit, ...even perhaps, the desire to be one with God


  • At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Lovely. Very well put.


  • At 11:33 AM, Blogger Val said…

    Your last few comments on wind and water made me wonder if that is why I enjoy collecting pebbles from a seashore so much. I would never dream of walking in the fields around my house, and tuning in to exactly the right rock to pick up from the dirt. But to hold a seawashed stone in my hand is an entirely different matter....hmmm...

  • At 5:07 AM, Blogger Tillerman said…

    I'm no expert on Zen or meditation but I have noticed that when I am sailing, concentrating on wind and water and balancing the boat that I enter a different state of consciousness where everything else is blocked out and am I am aware of are the natural elements and the physical sensations in my own body.

  • At 7:32 PM, Blogger royalLD said…

    Another fine writeup, Z.

    Sailors normally understand the elements that are used to clean the earth. Those elements are wind and water. Does that make us more spiritual? I don't know. But I do believe the planet is in the process of cleansing itself. Those not in harmony with nature's cleansing process will not like the 21st century.

  • At 5:32 AM, Blogger Cap't Bob said…

    Although I'm no real student of Zen, I do get the gist of it. When I teach sailing I use what I understand to be a Zen method.

    Some students 'get it', others don't. I teach them first the parts of the boat because you can't gain understanding without knowing how a boat works.

    Once on the water, however, I let them feel the boat, feel the wind, and listen to the water.

    There is a sound a boat makes when the sails are trimmed perfectly for a course. I call it champagne bubbles and although you can hear them periodically when sailing poorly trimmed, they are constant when all is perfect.

    You've put it perfectly - the boat becomes an extension of the mind and body.

    And a sailboat instead of challenging nature is a part of it.


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