A Buddhist reflection sailing back from Amsterdam
by Mokshapriya with photographs by Vibhuti Philippe Mion
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Mokshapriya is a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order
and joined the Trinovante for it’s final voyage of the
season from Amsterdam to Essex UK.
Whether it’s a day sail in British waters or a deep sea voyage crewing on the Trinovante is always an adventure. New challenges arise constantly and the challenge, whether it’s to tie a recently learnt hitch or remember which rope of the several options will actually raise the foresail peak, is a challenge to confront one’s own strengths and limitations. The immediate objective is to work as efficiently as possible supporting your shipmates but beyond that is the opportunity to observe the workings of your own mind.
After the kaleidoscopic chaos of our regular lives in which we catch but mere glimpses of our true being we find ourselves in the almost blissful simplicity of life at sea.
The sun slowly rises, the paling stars vanish, the sea begins a dance of pastel hues and as my mind opens before me I begin to know myself a little better. The beautiful simplicity of this sea faring life encourages me to cast off the restricting armour of self preservation and to get to know myself afresh.
Su asks us to trim the sails as a steady southerly carries us on our way and then we sit back keeping watch all around as the Trinovante glides through a calm North Sea at around five knots. Observing my mind I begin to notice the petty issues that still circle round and round and are held tightly in particular muscles around the body. Slowly I start to let them go, tensions begin to dissolve and a lightness enriches my experience. Silly little self obsessions and preoccupations, tightly held and once easily hidden, are gradually revealed as I inhale deeply the pure fresh airs that
breathe life into both me and the Trinovante.
An almost ecstatic sense of freedom begins to fill my being as I start to cast off old habits and tendencies losing them in the swirling waters of Trinovante’s wake. I begin to see my crew mates as real people with their own dreams and aspirations, their own worries and challenges. Even that little insight will make me a better member of our tight knit team.
I guess it’s what we call getting a fresh perspective and seeing things more clearly. But it’s not all plain sailing! After a particularly splendid half hour at the helm, feeling at one with the ship as we communicated the way only a helmsman and responsive ship can, I was asked to slacken the main jib tackle and was instantly confused and lost. My confidence fell away and I was, once again, an inept novice battling in the foggy waters of doubt and a sense of failure. Ah the fickle mind! Time to come back to the breath, take in the sky and sea, reconnect with the joys of the adventure, let go of my small mind and learn the ropes!
There’s no simpler hitch than the clove hitch and it’s oft used on a daily basis. So each time I sail I make sure I am well familiar with the simple twists and turns of this ubiquitous hitch. As I sit perched in the stern absorbing the sun my fingers deftly tie and untie a practice length of rope and my confidence is calming and reassuring. Suddenly John, the skipper, calls for a fender to be hung near the port stern and I’m there ready and waiting. I throw over the fender and with a twist and turn the clove hitch…… errr, now how did it go again. Argghh I can’t tie it on! Ok I’ll tie a simple knot and sort it out later. My confidence evaporates
again and I have another opportunity to overcome
my limited mind and embrace the challenges of the
We are constantly changing beings. How we change is up to us. No matter what happens to us our response can be creative or reactive. Sailing the Trinovante makes it easier to grasp this simple truth. If we can set up good conditions it’s so much easier to observe and work on our minds. All we need is a good ship and a good crew to sail her by…..