Common steps and sub-activities

Being on the sea alone


 

Man at the helm- 1892. Theo van Rysselberghe

Being on a boat alone on the wider seas and oceans combines a number of techniques favourable to spiritual experience:

  • Rocking is a known technique [Rocking swinging and swaying] and waves out on the ocean provide a continuous rocking or up and down motion long enough for us to be really befuddled.
  • The landscape, as it were, can be very monotonous, despite the waves and the sea and the sky, there is not in reality much visual stimulation in  a boat, especially on the large oceans.  At great distances from shore you will not see many birds, if any.  When the sea is a flat calm and the sky misty and cloudless it is akin to a desert [Visual deprivation].
  • One would think the sea smells, but out on the ocean it doesn’t, there is very little sensory stimulation for your sense of smell [Deprivation of smell].
  • The wind makes a noise, the harder it blows the noisier it gets, but it is a monotonous noise, almost a no noise on the sea, to the point where you no longer notice it [yes I have sailed].  The only real noise tends to come from the rigging, so if you can minimise this you have a form of silence.[Auditory deprivation].
  • The food you can take on a long boat journey also tends to be a little monotonous after a while, canned or dried and it always seems to taste of salt [deprivation of taste].
  • If you have managed to set the sails properly and the weather is set for several days, a boat can almost sail itself under these conditions and ultimately you have nothing to think about, there is no stimulation, because there is nothing to do. So here we have Suppression of learning. A yachtsman not wishing to see nymphs, mermaids and neptune and chat to dolphins, busies himself or herself with yachty type stuff like navigation and deck swilling and mending and rigging checking and other such useful stuff.  But all that can wait in reality, it is just a means of stopping yourself from going nuts [as you can see I’m not a terribly keen yachty].  But the time  could be put to good use by chanting a mantra, for example, or maybe repeating a koan. You could have days and days and days of sensory deprivation if you plan it right.

winslow homer - the herring net

The only sense which you will find extremely difficult to deprive yourself of is that of touch. But find a spot with flat calm and only a gentle swell [the Sargasso sea maybe?] where you are not in the continual state of those who sail on southern oceans – wet and cold.  Find a sea with warm air temperatures – so blood heat and then pile a few pillows on deck, sit upright propped up in comfort and you could be well away.  I am not talking out of my hat here, it has been done, though one gathers it can be a bit scary when you see your first nymph.

Now the practicalities.

Seasickness can be a problem.  Don’t bother if you have even the remotest sensitivity in this direction.

And of course how do you find a boat and get to be able to sail it alone? These days, as always, you have to be a proficient yachtsman to be able to sail our oceans. I suppose you could always search around for a person with a yacht prepared to sail it for you, or let you sail it for them whilst they remained discretely out of the way.  I know of one person who used to deliver boats in the hope that if they took the night watch they would get their experience, but it was too short a time and the people down below whooping it up with gin and vodka and peanuts and CDs of Pink Floyd rather put the kybosh on this hope.

There is talk that many who disappear overboard on night watch in those long races that last months, have been lured to the deeps by a passing mermaid or siren.  Not suicide at all.

Observations

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