Sailing spirituality

Exploring the Depths

Depth, when attributed to another person, is often a way to signify a sense of inner capacity, a wisdom cultivated over a lifetime of paying attention to and learning from one’s own inner workings and the lives and world around them. It is a capacity to be honored, to be revered, for within those who have cultivated their own depth are the important learnings of what it means to be alive, and how to navigate life gracefully, meaningfully and with integrity. We sometimes recognize when we are in the presence of a person of depth, for we are drawn to listen to them, or sometimes simply to remain still in their presence.

There is another form of depth which is perhaps yet more valuable, more meaningful, more profound. This depth is the in-the-moment settling into the depths of one’s own being. It is a place, a state really, within which words can become superfluous, for nothing needs be said. Nothing can be uttered which can rival the vastness, the meaning, the import, the completeness of this quiet, profound depth. Its very nature is paradoxical for this depth possesses meaning without concept, fullness without substance, completeness without components, and capacity with nothing to accomplish.

The mind and the soul have very different capacities and agendas. The mind is the master of complexity, able to wade through a seemingly endless array of inputs and synthesize them into a meaningful sense of understanding. The soul, on the other hand, is the master of simplicity. It’s beauty lies in it’s ability to simply be with, without need for understanding. The mind seeks to understand that which appears to be. The soul rests in the depths of that which is. 

In my experience, the best way to cultivate access to this place of depth and stillness is to simply sit and observe, while doing one’s best not to interpret or understand. Simply watch. Simply be with. Whenever the mind tries to interpret, judge or wander, simply notice and return to observing. You may find yourself naturally noticing your breathing. It can take time for the concept-loving aspects of our minds to power down, especially if we’ve rarely done so, but patience and stillness can be their very own rewards.

“Wisdom comes with the ability to be still, just look and listen. No more else is needed. Being still, looking and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Let stillness direct your words and actions.”

~ Eckhart Tolle

I find being still and observant in nature to be the best way to practice. I’m blessed to be sailing as crew on a sailboat in the South Pacific as I’m writing this. The depths of these waters, sometimes up to three miles deep, and the hours on end I have been able to simply sit and be with the waves, the wind, the skies and the stars has truly settled me into a deeper place, a place which gratefully knows and appreciates this place of depth within myself. The motion of the boat through the swells naturally encourages my inhale and exhale to synchronize with the movements of the sea. Though being on the open ocean surely helps, everywhere we find ourselves that depth is available, if we can slow down, be with, and simply observe the immediate world around us.

The more we allow and encourage distraction into our lives, the harder it becomes to find and maintain that depth, that inner stillness. We tend to spend most if not all of our waking hours endlessly feeding the conceptual intelligence craving parts of our mind while ignoring the part of us that would prefer to simply be. Here at sea, there is no phone which can plug it’s matrix-loving tendrils into my mind. Though I’ve downloaded many films and shows for this trip, I’ve yet to watch one in over 6 weeks, as the time that I’m not on watch, engaging in conversation, reading, resting or eating is much more simply and enjoyably spent in silent observation.

I truly believe that the most important skill we can learn in life is to cultivate this place of depth, of stillness within us that we might carry it forth into the world. When we begin to do so, we can infuse the totality of our experience with a subtle quietude. We then contain an ability to remain calm or at least aware within the storms of life, and our interactions and relationships fill with simple gratitude, for we cease from wishing for anything to be other than exactly as it is, or for anyone to be anyone other than exactly who they are. Thus a certain capacity and wisdom naturally can begin to travel with you throughout the meanderings of your days.

I never knew how much I would love spending extended time on the vastness of this great ocean. I realize though, that it’s not so much the ocean that I love as it is this place of vastness and depth within. Inspired by ocean swells, it arises from and settles back into me. It seems to take a couple of days at sea for this sense to settle in, but as it does, I find there is no place I’d rather be. Perhaps my draw to the sea is less about exploring this world and more about being drawn to know and cultivate this place of depth within myself. The depths of these waters, sometimes miles deep, and the hours on end I can simply sit and be with the waves, the wind, the skies and the stars leads me to a place which gratefully knows and appreciates this depth that exists within us all. 

“Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them, Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.”

~ Rumi

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