“She’s at sea.” It’s an expression that usually means she’s drifting, unsure of what to do next, perhaps confused with no sense of direction in life. It’s the kind of thing that happens to many of us when we go through major change or loss or trauma. It can take a while for our centered self to return so that we can make good decisions and a sense of what’s next.
Cruising at sea is different – or is it? Many cruisers (including me) will tell you that “at sea” days are the best. These are the days when we are not docked in a particular place (although those are fun, too!) and we are simply underway. The ship often has several different kinds of activities – from lectures to classes to games and entertainment. While many participate (I’m taking the Tai Chi class), there is also a fair amount of reading and relaxing that goes on. Short naps are common. It’s the kind of time that many of us don’t have when we are at home and on the land – time just to watch the ocean go by. Time just to be.
So, in that sense, it is the same kind of thing as someone who seems lost in life direction, “at sea”. The passengers go where the captain takes the boat. There is little you can do to influence the “at sea” schedule, except participate or not. You are at the whim of the boat and the ocean. (Last night was a bit “lumpy” for us, but not terrifically so.) Some folks have remarked to me that they can’t imagine cruising because of the inability to get off the ship. The confinement would drive them nuts.
But for some of us (and possibly for those who will never try it) I wonder, if the appeal of “at sea” days is this kind of inability to control much except your response to what’s happening. And, in the experience of “being” instead of “doing”, there is much interior renewal that goes on.
The truth is that we expect people (including ourselves) to be active, engaged, doing something most of the time. And Social Scientists tell us that is good for our physical and mental health. However, someone once pointed out to me that we are human “beings” not human “doings”. And few of us really make time to be – just to be – not watch television, read a book or distract oneself (like writing a blog!), but just BE.
Being is a gift of life– our own being, both individual and corporate. Yes, I believe that Being is larger than our individuality and that we all participate in it and contribute to it. Ever notice how the atmosphere in a room changes when someone with a joy-filled being enters the room? Or how about someone who is angry? Our particular being needs to fed and nourished if it is to thrive and grow and contribute positively to the larger Being.
I actually like it when the ship rolls a bit. It feels like I am really “at sea”, perhaps even close to being at one with the sea. It can feel like we are being held in the whole creation. Such experience of unity comes when we are fully present to the present rather than living in the past or the future. Our busy minds are usually in the past or the future, but we can train them to be present in the moment as we encounter life. “Take one day at a time” becomes “Take one hour at a time” and then “Take one minute at a time”.
Being at sea does not make time stand still but it does, at least for me, make it more full – full of color and sounds, plants (on board), various kinds of people, music, conversation that just happens. Life is full and vibrant and we can participate in that or go about our own business and ignore it.
The Jewish/Christian tradition honors a day of rest called the sabbath. There is wisdom in putting down the work and simply being in creation and with loved ones. Perhaps I will start thinking of sabbath as an “at sea” day – or vice versa. How about you?