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Boldly Sail the Storms of Life

by Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Life as Sailboat

From ancient times, the troubles of life have been visualized as storms. In the following Taoist quote, the troubles of life are being compared to a windstorm:

A tree that is unbending is easily broken.
- Lao Tzu

The interpretation of this quote is that if we fight against our Life-Storms like a rigid and brittle tree, we may successfully resist smaller life-storms, but will snap sharply and unexpectedly when the storm reaches some unpredictable intensity. In contrast, if we are yielding, like the strong yet flexible willow, we can weather the strongest life-storms. This illustrates the Way of Acceptance - changing our attitude toward life rather than attempting the impossible task of changing what life throws at us.

While bending with the attack of Life-Storms is far superior to either resisting rigidly or being blown like a tumbleweed, consider how much better it would be to master the forces of our Life-Storms and use those forces to do our Life-Work and achieve mastery of our lives.

Consider the subtle yet highly effective technique a martial artist uses in self defense. The martial artist utilizes almost none of his (or her) own energy, while turning the opponent's force back against him. The greater the force with which the opponent attacks, the more "free" energy the martial artist has at his disposal. This is how a small but well trained martial artist can easily overcome a huge and violent opponent. The more viciously the opponent attacks, the easier victory becomes for a trained martial artist.

Now visualize the battle with the storms of life as occurring on a body of water - the Ocean of Life.

Consider three ways we might meet our Life-Storms

1. As Raft

2. As Motorboat

3. As Sailboat

Like a martial artist, a sailboat utilizes the power of it's adversary. The stronger the wind, the faster and more agile a well designed and well mastered sailboat becomes.

In contrast, a motorboat must work exceedingly hard to move. And its rate of fuel consumption sharply increases with increased speed. Fuel for a power boat is a very limited, very expensive non-renewable resource. Small sailboats routinely travel from continent to continent or even around the world, but a small powerboat would require a virtually impossible quantity and expense of fuel for such a journey.

Viewed as our boat of Life, would we rather be the Sailboat and effectively transmute the energy of the storm to our intended purposes; or would we rather try to be the motorboat and expend vast quantities of our own very limited energy resources in trying to fight against the forces of Life; or would we rather be the raft and passively wait for Life's forces to blow us onto the rocks or wherever its winds happen to be blowing.

It is exceedingly exhausting - physically, mentally and emotionally - to attempt to power one's way through life. We just don't have the energy to do it even when life's storms are only blowing gently. Time alone takes its toll on our fuel supply. And when our Life-Storms howl, and we attempt to crank up our motor to maximum emergency overload speed, we burn out. We run out of fuel, blow a gasket, or just explode - one way or another, it just isn't a pretty sight, and it's no fun for our friends and family either.

The third alternative - being a raft - doesn't even qualify as living a fully human life. Existing in total apathy, and remaining completely passive while Life's winds and currents control our destiny is... well, let's just say that kind of existence doesn't much appeal to me.

Most people alternate between being a motorboat and being a raft. They first react to Life's storms by trying to power through them. When that doesn't work well and they run low on fuel, they reach the point of despair, and become the raft. Some people just remain rafts, but usually people refuel and revert to trying to be motorboats and trying to power through their Life-Storms.

Choose to be the Sailboat on the Ocean of Life. Use your mastery of life skills to turn adversity to your advantage. Power your movement through life by redirecting the energy of the same Life-Storms that are devastating others.

Running Before The Wind

Life is not always to be sailed close-hauled into the teeth of the gale. Some days are for running quietly before a gentle breeze. Life presents us with ample opportunity to do both.

We are given days when we are becalmed - with neither danger nor adventure on the horizon. Welcome these days for rest and renewal.

We are given days with a light breeze, and no particular place to go. Welcome these days to sail about and explore the immediate neighborhood. Welcome the opportunity to practice setting the sails to get the highest efficiency from the breeze, and to learn to approach the docks and moorings of our destinations smoothly.

We are given days when our chosen destination is downwind of our current position and in clear sight. Welcome these days when we can run gently with the wind rather than fighting it. Sometimes life's wind really does blow our way.

Often, we are given days when our destination lies in a direction other than downwind, and often beyond our line of sight. Welcome these days to prove the agility, speed, and stamina of our boat and our seamanship. We reach, we tack, we maneuver. We use our training, our compass, our charts, and the stars. We set ourselves apart from those who are less trained, less focused, less attentive, less committed, less courageous, and less bold.

Sometimes we are given days when a full gale blows and dangerous rocks and shoals lie directly down wind. Welcome these days as the opportunity to put our best seamanship on the line. We have worked hard, trained hard, studied hard, and practiced hard in order to be ready for days like this. These are the days we must sail close-hauled into the teeth of the gale. We breathe in our courage, exhale our fear, and do what we have trained ourselves to do.

One day we are given the "perfect storm" - the hurricane beyond hurricanes - the day when our mast breaks. Welcome this day as the day our body returns to Spirit.

*** A Sailboat is the metaphor for Life in SAIL: Simply An Inspired Life.


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