Everyone needs a rest day. Today was mine. I’ve been operating on 3-4 hours sleep for almost a week now and as I looked at the cloud formations that greeted the morning, I could see it would be much more stable than previous days. The clouds were light and sparse with no sign of building anvils or areas of heavy rain. A flood of exhaustion washed over me and I surrendered into the reality that I was tired. Really tired. I felt no shame in the exhuastion though and took splendour in the fact I could postpone chores like washing ‘till tomorrow and sink into chill mode. The wind was a steady 15knts from 210 deg TWD and TWA of 120deg, which meant the boat sailed well all day and once the sails were set, there wasn’t much more for me to do. We averaged 6.6 knts for the 24-hour period giving us a total of 155nm sailed. A record so far. Who says doing nothing can’t be productive.
While at times it can seem counterintuitive (at least to me), to find the best version of yourself, rest is absolutely crucial. Today I rested like a champion, if I do say so myself. I’m learning to master the art of the afternoon nap and am loving my new favourite accompaniment for such endeavours, Hermanos Guiterrez. I also listened to classical music and some favourite jazz numbers by Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. There’s a right time and place for every kind of music and when you manage to get the combination in tune, it can be such a moving experience. Drifting between the chorus of the ocean caressing the hull, the artists performing musical miracles and the slow bass of the wind as it moved through the rigging and the sail, I gave in to the healing power of nature. This is why I was here, above all others and I rejoiced in the moment and felt my own vibrations start to slow and to strengthen.
Our bodies aren’t designed to be in a constant state of “fight or flight” and when we’re stressed, as almost everyone has been the past 3-4 months (for me its longer than I care to admit), our nervous systems go into overdrive, our adrenal glands work harder than they’re designed to, and the inner balance the multitude of our internal systems naturally seek is seriously out of whack. This results in mental health issues like depression and anxiety, which I’m sure are at epidemic levels across the globe right now. While pharmaceutical supports for such ailments can be, and are helpful in the short-term, to really address the issue one needs to get to either the root of the cause or seek a more holistic approach to health and the lives we lead. This trip for me is in part an exploration of what choices I can make to help lift the cloud of anxiety which often takes over the pit of my stomach and mitigate the dark blanket of depression which I’ve unwittingly crawled under in the past. It’s an exploration of how to live a better life. To liberate myself from societal constraints and to try and understand the ways in which I can be happier and healthier.
The Japanese have a term called forest bathing. Which literally means to go into the forest and soak up the energy, the beauty and the power of the natural world. I think I’m going to coin the term Ocean Bathing™, or at least I’m going to practice it as much as I can in the coming days and weeks. The reality I have 3-4 more weeks out here is hard to comprehend. A gift I’m eternally grateful for.
Buddha once said “For what has been, look to the body. For what will become, look to the mind”. Only recently have scientists learned about neuroplasticity and that we truly have the ability to change the way our brains work. Much of this happens without our knowing, such as the increased ability for shallow reading thanks to modern communications at the expense of deep reading. But we can actively change both the format and the function of our brain if we try. Meditation is a great way to do this but so too are doing things that bring joy and happiness, practicing compassion and giving to others. Most important to note is that these are conscious choices which we have the ability to influence. Viktor Frankel famously explored these themes in Man’s Search for Meaning and both through empirical evidence in Nazi concentration camps and later through more scientific studies as a world-renowned psychologist, showed that it’s our reaction to events, not the events themselves which determines our success. In concentration camps this meant the difference between living and dying, but in peace time, it meant the difference between joy and happiness and despair and depression. It’s this awareness of control that’s key. We must accept our situation as that can’t be changed while remembering that the future is not yet determined. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we are only slaves if we let ourselves become so. Emancipation must come from within.
The sky was cloudless this evening, which meant I could also bath in the moon’s rays as she slowly set. The silvery trail across the ocean of a moon set is far rarer to see than a sunset given we’re usually asleep when it happens, and I always find it a more intimate affair. Sunsets are for champagne and celebration. Moonsets are for quiet reflection and contemplation. As I said goodbye to the moon, an extraordinary thing happened. I watched Venus rise in the night sky and she was so bright, I saw her purple reflection cascade across the ocean to the horizon. A sight I’ve never seen before.
It’s easy to talk of the hundreds of billions of stars (and a few planets) in the night sky but to see so many of them appear on a pitch black canvas from the middle of the ocean gives new meaning to scale, though my feeble mind will never be able to comprehend the enormity of the universe. I can’t even comprehend the scale of the Pacific, let alone mother earth.
It was so dark that I couldn’t see where the watery horizon of our home planet stopped, and the universe began. We were all one. The delusional blinkers that deceive us into thinking of our own importance were cast aside like giant mooring lines and I found great solace in being reminded how truly insignificant I am. The stresses that would normally keep me up at night, give me anxiety and generally distract me from happiness are put in their appropriate place on the ocean at night, allowing me to freely commune with my soul.
I had to navigate a cluster of fishing boats which set off the AIS alarms and woke me from slumber at 1:30am. Who knows what they were up to, but I gave them a wide berth and wished them well? As I contemplated going back to bed an hour later, a shooting star light up the sky in front of me, seemingly showing the way and signally all was well, and I felt safe to drift back to sleep in this cosmic wonderland.