... And I decide the Sea.

Taking a break from my Perma-culture Internship, I headed to Victoria. Over an incredible salmon-eggs-Benny at the Chateau Victoria, I noticed a few ships in the harbour: the exact kind I had sailed upon during Jr. High, aboard the SALTS program. I had a few hours to spare, so I grabbed my camera to get up close again to these two-masted beauties, knowing full-well how 'the Ship,' has become a central metaphor for my understanding of the human psyche.

I discovered Dr. Paul Debransky's "Mind OS" system several years ago now, and have found his visual model extremely useful in navigating not only the day-to-day, but also for making large decisions. In time, I recognised a parallel between his three axes, and how a ship operates.

The emotions, I parallel to the mast and sails of the ship: some emotions fly above you, out of control, others come from way below, travelling vertical and downwards through our body. At the extremes of the scale, elation and depression alone denote this vertical movement. Standing on the mid-deck, though, one has a sense of security, of happiness and well being. Dr. Paul goes into tremendous detail on the two emotional spectra, positive and negative, so I find here the double mast ships to reflect which 'pole' one can be gravitating toward.

I believe I was all of fourteen years old on this sailing voyage, and I spent most (if not all) my spare time in the Robin's nest; and getting up there was an enjoyable challenge. We would tie a rope around our waist - having studied all kinds of knots - and clip ourselves onto the rope-ladder with each step until we climbed to the top. For some odd reason, I was the only one who really enjoyed it up there... I remember - so clearly - seeing a seal, far into the distance: The afternoon was sunny, and I sent out my imagination for miles and nautical miles upon all the diamonds... conjured up by wind and sunlight sparkling on the sea(!) It was perhaps one of my earliest experiences in a very consciously chosen Mindfulness state....

As I took this picture of the mast, I was thinking of how tangled a person can become, navigating the emotions we are all sway to, and I remember clearly, also, falling near-dead asleep below in the bunks. My assigned bunk was right foremost into the bow of the boat, so it was very dark and isolated. I had to crawl over one bed through a narrow opening, sleeping right at the that front tip in the bow, just below the deck, where gracefully I was rocked to sleep each night by the living ocean. I learned of bioluminescence on night watch, and funnily, it was my principle whose bunk I had to crawl through to get to mine! 
This 'nap,' had me out like a light for the better part of the afternoon. I missed lunch, and upon waking I had an incredible headache - probably one of my first migraines - and crawling out from the dark recess took a seeming eternity. I had missed an on-board class too, which I believe cost me the end exam... I was having such trouble in school that year, and though I failed the section on 'Sea-Faring Right-of-Way,' I still passed, and the overall experience continues to prove both memorable and formative. How interesting: my elation in the Robin's Nest, and how terrible my mind having extended my time "below."



Later, returning to the Chateau, I discovered a whale tour with this incredible jaw-bone: also a reminder of how our imagination can intensify emotions. Through Mindfulness meditation, we can understand and harness that exact energy to befriend emotion, and the emotion in others, avoiding Gilligan's "three hour tour." 

I am an advocate for Marshall Rosenberg's 'Non-Violent Communication,' whose content is better reflected in the title "Compassionate Communication." As emotion, when recognised, isn't as scary as we might otherwise imagine.


The intellect, I parallel to the oars of a boat. On these particular ships, there are no oars. Life-boats, yes, but a complete dearth of Viking action. Dr. Paul calls the complimentary halves of the intellect 'book smarts,' and 'street smarts.' I found that the side-to-side - steering - aspect of the ship mirrors this movement: at some point the 'people' on one side of the boat are going to over-power the people on the other side, and so too with your knowledge. Sometimes you'll need hard facts to navigate what lies before you, and at other times you'll need a clear, more intuitive sense for the situation at hand. When both sides are rowing in tandem, one has a feeling of control, or, as Dr. Paul suggests, of success. 

Finally, I parallel Dr. Paul's decision making with the length of the ship, the keel from bow to stern: consciousness is out in front of us, while our intuition speaks to us from behind - sometimes each at a distance. The balance point between the two, Dr. Paul claims as being wisdom.

Each balance point on each of the three axes arrives at a common central point. Balanced emotions bring us happiness, a balanced intellect (or perspective) moves us toward success, and any balanced decision enhances our wisdom. 

Happiness, Success, and Wisdom: each then are we captain of our own vessel. Standing upon the ship-deck, centred, we are able to navigate our lives effectively. I captured it once in a poem to a now former lover:

decisions: the keel
sails: the emotions
oars: to know the water
and understand the waves

three axes, intersect finely above deck
in the mind of the shipwright

The title of this blog post derives from a different poem I wrote in my "Book of Gardens: I Ching inspired Eco-Theology," based on hexagram number 60, "Regulation." Regulation is a time described within I Ching of finding "joy within danger," which I find to be a fine metaphor for the day-to-day. Conscious awareness of one's own emotions - top to bottom - while navigating the world of emotions in others is clearly one of the giant joys in life - if one chooses it as joy. Certainly this day to wander downtown Victoria brought out much much elation, well harboured in my memory.

Dr. Paul Debransky is a very eloquent speaker and writer, and his years in the psychology profession have brought him to a place of very mature compassion. I have listened to him speak on pod casts countless times, until his visual model embedded itself into my daily knowing. I highly recommend his work, and it is tailored for Men. As I wandered along the Victoria Harbour, I felt so elated about the things I have learned thus far in life. I spoke to some of the youngsters about to depart on their first sea-faring trip, to let them know such an adventure was a true highlight of my life. 

It was wonderful to have that elation overtake me again. I am amazed at just how completely 'the Ship' continues to resonate with me.