Posted by: Zen | May 1, 2007

Zen & Sailing

I was surfing the web yesterday while bored at work. I was looking originally for something , anything on Islander 29’s. Most nothing turned up. Then just for the heck of it I looked up Tao and sailing, Mostly got the Tao of Sailing , which is a good book. I have in my collection. Next I did Zen and sailing. I found several of my old postings, a few words from others about Zen adnd sailing, mostly low key stuff about a moment that was “zen-like’ I also found this. Written by someone named Andersen back in 1998 I think it was. Anyway it is not mine, but it is cool.:


“Do you remember when summers were simpler and seemingly endless? Then it seemed it was just you, the water, wind and your boat. Can you remember the feeling you got when you first trimmed your boat perfectly and it sailed itself to weather? If so, you were on the Zen path.

You probably can still remember the feeling of the wooden tiller that led directly to the wooden rudder attached to the wooden hull by brass gudgeon and pintle. Most likely the boat was the property of a parent or a yacht club. But perhaps it was a project you built over the winter.

Can you remember the smell, sounds, and feel of that time long ago when all was well with the world and you were at one with the universe? If so, you were on the Zen path.

Remember the mindlessness of the moment? That was Zen.

Zen is a Buddhist philosophy that originated in India. It was developed in China and later introduced in Japan as a fusion between Indian spiritual beliefs and the Chinese philosophy of Taoism. Zen is a state of mind roughly equivalent to meditation. Specifically, Zen is the state of consciousness of one whose mind is free from the assumption that the distinct individuality of oneself and other things is real.

Thus, to one who practices Zen, reality cannot be grasped by any system of fixed definitions or classifications. Reality is the universe, just as it is, right now. Zen is a state of consciousness wherein thoughts move without leaving any trace. A Zen master was asked, “What is the Way of Zen?” He answered, “A cloud in the sky and water in the jug.” Zen students simply observe, without comment. In Zen, the mind serves as a window rather than as a mirror.

Western interest in Zen dates from the publication of the first authoritative account of the subject in English, Essays in Zen Buddhism by the Japanese scholar Daisetz T. Suzuki. After World War II, interest in Zen developed in Europe and the U.S. Zen influences may be noted among artists, philosophers, and psychologists. Zen had a special appeal for abstract and nonobjective painters and sculptors. Philosophers likened Zen with the thought of the Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein. The theory of general semantics by the American scientist and writer Alfred Korzybski has many Zen elements. Existentialism, as found in the writings of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, has many Zen implications.

Today the organic aspect of yacht has mostly disappeared. The mariner is often pre-occupied with acquiring the latest computer technology to assist in finding that sweet spot in time called “The Groove.”

International yacht racing is a multi-million dollar industry. Rolex, Cadillac, Mumm’s and Louis Vuitton are a few of the highbrow sponsors of regattas. Brewers and makers of spirits appeal to the mid-brow. The lower echelon of the social spectrum is mostly ignored. When advertising is allowed on a sail, one seldom sees the word, “NOTHINGNESS” on a spinnaker.

Long gone are the days of iron men and wooden ships. The contemporary racing yacht is a high-spirited composite of resins and alloys. The wooden ships of old were often affectionately referred to as “she.” Today they are often just called. “it.”

Modern yachts race against the clock and subsequently to the bank. The once stout, sea-kindly boat has been over-bread almost to the point of explosion. One used to rip a sail. Now one blows out a panel that is manufactured from mysterious amalgams of Mylar, Kevlar and graphite.

Sailing the modern racing yacht is somewhat like riding a “green-broke,” robotic Mustang . . . lean to its aluminum bone and mean to its fiberglass core . . . something extruded rather than born . . . But for many of us, the image of simpler summers remain.

If you are interested in using your “Wind Instrument” as a means of approaching Zen, now is the time.

It is better if you sail alone. It is not necessary to voice your intention to your associates. Hoist your smallest sails. Get out of the traffic lanes to a calm open patch of water. Bring your vessel to a weather course. Trim the sail(s) until the boat sails itself. Keep your eyes open. Breath deeply. The air going in and out of our lungs is the same substance as that moving your boat. Observe but do not comment to yourself about anything. Thoughts will wonder into your consciousness. Label them and let them go. Strive to be in the moment, if only for a micro-second. You will be astounded when it happens. Do not be surprised if you smile at yourself.”…Andersen

deep eh.

It is always nice to read from someone who “gets it” , more so after sitting in traffic with impatient “bacas” on the freeway for an hour …or two commuting. How easy it is to get caught up in, “that this is life mindset”

well, next up …

I have a ASA test on Monday. I am studying for. If I pass it will raise my instructor level to Coastal Cruising. If I do well enough I will go up two levels to Coastal Navigator instructor as well. I do not feel confident I’ll make that, but I ‘m shooting for Coastal Cruising instructor and student level for Coastal Nav. The Navigation part is the part I’m concerned on. I hate word math problems. :-(

I am mostly “getting it” but my numbers do not always match excat close , but not dead on. It is prety complex at time.

I like foods complex, music complex, Kung Fu forms comlex. I like my math simple.

I’ m also bringing in USCG limited license into my sights. I am getting feedback I can parlay my instructor certification with ASA to by-pass the written part of the USCG test , and just need the Physical and the golden rain in the bottle test. If I can get those thing under my belt. It will put me in a good place for credentials for future opportunities and look good on my sailing resume in Japan.

Oh well, one day at a time, and small steps. Soushi Zutsu ( one step at a time). Lets see what the tide bring for the next ASA test. Back to study…

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  1. […] absolutely beautiful essay, by someone named Andersen at, by way of Zen. Have a great […]

  2. Speaking of math…the kid has to build a 1/4 scale house on an 18″x22″ board…this is for math class! The only math I care to do is when counting money! Help! Love your blog…catch up on both whenever I can.
    Here is the house ad:
    Not even up 24 hours and I think we have the perfect tennants.
    Hugs, Sis

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