Meditation and Sailing
When the sailing gets a little rough (or really, more than just very gentle) I’ve had to deal with nausea. When this starts, I feel my body tense up, like trying to protect itself against the motion. To keep it at bay, I find myself using breathing techniques I’ve acquired through mindfulness and meditation practice. I appreciate the beautiful horizon. I breathe in fully, and calm my body, try to reduce the response. It doesn’t make the nausea go away, but it helps. Fortunately, I've had less nausea on the last few sails, and haven’t needed any medication…only breathing and lovely horizons.
I haven’t really meditated since Banksy died. I’m mindful in my appreciations of the moments, of appreciation for the amazing world we live in and amazing humans I’m lucky enough to know. But I haven’t sat down to meditate. Actually, I tried once a couple of months ago... I sobbed instead.
Banksy was my meditation partner. He loved this job. He would come upstairs with me, usually lying on the bed, though sometimes on the floor on a blanket near me. I would light a candle and sit on a cushion.
Banksy would start out looking at me directly, and then begin to breathe deeply, close his eyes. Sometimes he went to sleep, but often he would just lie there with his eyes closed. Meditation dog.
When I was done reading and breathing, I would blow out the candle and sit and breathe a moment. I would put the candle and book and blanket away. Then I would snuggle Banksy, tell him that he was the best and the cutest and the best meditation partner.
Snuggling included, a meditation session usually took about 10 to 20 minutes. Simple and joyful. My body would be relaxed, my heart would be lighter.
Thich Nhat Hanh
I never met the amazing human that was Thich Nhat Hanh. I didn’t know as much about him as I probably should have, based on the effect his work had on me. This prolific writer, this change agent, this lovely light, made a huge difference in how I meditate, in how I invite energy to flow through me and around me, in how I appreciate emotion and being. And of course was a lovely example of how we treat other amazing humans.
My favorite meditation to date is from his Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. I found this in his book “The Awakening of the Heart”, but I think you can find it in many of his books.
I’ve included it here, along with my comments of how I’ve used it…both in honor of Thich Nhat Hanh and as my way of processing a path back to meditation without Banksy.
“…the practitioner goes into the forest or to the foot of a tree or to any deserted place, sits stably in the lotus position, holding his or her body quite straight.. and practices like this: ’Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.’
1. ‘Breathing in a long breath, I know I am breathing in a long breath. Breathing out a long breath, I know I am breathing in a long breath.’
2. ‘Breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing in a short breath. Breathing out a short breath, I know I am breathing out a short breath.’“
I would say each of these lines to myself (silently, in my mind) as I breathed in long and short. Three long breaths in and out, three short breaths in and out.
“3. ‘Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body.’ He or she practices like this.”
I would do a body scan, looking for places of stress and tension as I breathed in and out along with these words, once breathing in and out and scanning, twice breathing in and out and scanning and relaxing, three times breathing in and out and scanning and relaxing.
“4. ‘Breathing in, I calm my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body.’ He or she practices like this.”
As I breathed in and out these words three times, I imagined a calming light, often a light blue like the Colorado sky on a clear spring day, or sometimes as rain filtering sunlight, the drops backlit, warm and calming like warm rain while lying on soft white sand on the beach.
“5. ‘Breathing in, I feel joyful. Breathing out, I feel joyful.’ He or she practices like this.
6. ‘Breathing in, I feel happy. Breathing out, I feel happy.’ He or she practices like this”
I would try to imagine what the light of joy and buzz happiness look like as light, and send that light until it stretched through and filled each of my limbs, down to my finger tips, sometimes to Banksy’s paws when he would stretch out a paw to touch my foot or arm.
“7. ‘Breathing in, I am aware of my mental formations. Breathing out, I am aware of my mental formations.’ He or she practices like this.
8. ‘Breathing in, I calm my mental formations. Breathing out, I calm my mental formations.’ He or she practices like this.”
I would imagine my head as a stage, with the thoughts drifting across like players. I don’t have to control the time on the stage, just watch as they pass. Slowly, gently, clear the stage for the next (empty) set. Let the players slow, ebb.
“9. ‘Breathing in, I am aware of my mind. Breathing out, I am aware of my mind.’ He or she practices like this.
10. ‘Breathing in, I make my mind happy. Breathing out, I make my mind happy.’ He or she practices like this”
I don’t know quite how to explain what I would do with these. It’s a bit that I know how powerful placebos are. It’s a bit that I know we both can and can’t separate our bodies from our minds. I would imagine the neural pathways of happiness in my mind, lighting up my mind along those paths.
“11. ‘Breathing in, I concentrate my mind. Breathing out, I concentrate my mind.’ He or she practices like this.”
I would concentrate my energy, my thoughts, in healing light that was directed at Banksy, to scan his body and try to tell it to kick the cancer out. To harness his beautiful heart to love the cancer out. Breathing in and breathing out, concentrating on a singular beam of hope.
“12. ‘Breathing in, I liberate my mind. Breathing out, I liberate my mind.’ He or she practices like this.”
I imagine my mind opening up to to the energy we all create together, something bigger than any one of us. Golden energy pouring in and out, cleansing and releasing and filling and creating.
“13. ‘Breathing in, I observe the impermanent nature of all dharmas. Breathing out, I observe the impermanent nature of all dharmas.’ He or she practices like this.
14. ‘Breathing in, I observe the disappearance of desire. Breathing out, I observe the disappearance of desire.’ He or she practices like this.”
I don’t do great in practicing or accepting these two. I know our time is temporary. I try to accept it. I don’t want to. I don’t observe the disappearance of desire, but I try to imagine I do. Meditating sometimes makes me want to change things more, not less.
“15. ‘Breathing in, I observe cessation. Breathing out, I observe cessation.’ He or she practices like this.”
I hold my breath and experience as much stillness, as much stoppedness as I can. I sometimes do box breathing for these breaths. In while I count to four slowly. Hold my breath while I count to four slowly. Breathe out slowly while I count to four. Hold my empty lungs from breathing in for a slow count of four.
“16. ‘Breathing in, I observe letting go. Breathing out, I observe letting go.’ He or she practices like this.”
I imagine I am breathing with the great breath of the world, breathing in through me and across me, breathing out through me and across me. Like a great but gentle wind.
The last breath out, I blow out the candle.