Sailing away to mindfulness and meditation

Dunedin resident Bill McIndoe explains why meditation and mindfulness is the key to his relaxation.

In various journals and magazines, I have been reading much about mindfulness, contemplation and meditation.

Scientific American, Mind and Time magazines have all been running articles in their neurological series. These are methods of controlling the activity of your own brain especially when disturbing runaway thoughts are difficult to control. There is much ancient and modern knowledge to study and to understand how this is done and its benefits.

On occasions I go down to my yacht to do a job. I finish the work and then sit in the saloon with a cup of tea thinking about the next project. Soon my mind drifts away, from thinking about what needs be done, to contemplating the peace and pleasure of just being there.

Using mindfulness to control the activities of my brain I am able to move into a form of meditation to seek peace in my mind. I spend time aboard Avanti with the intention of meditating. The ambience of the beautiful space with all its connections of past adventures and dangers hovers in the air like a spirit, embracing me with a feeling of camaraderie. A feeling of understanding between two trusted friends. The yacht and I what we have done together over a period of 33 years is written down in my logs, but here and now it is an understanding that brings us contentment where written words are unnecessary.

There is no need to retell of the near collisions, the gear breakages, the fear of being embayed and driven on the rocks in a gale or the storm from which there seemed no escape. The injuries from being flung across the cabin, seasickness, the shock of hitting a reef and the awful navigation errors no longer swirl around the cabin. They are now all in the past; imbedded into the fabric of the boat.

When I sit here, tucked in the corner, resting my shoulder against the heater, I am the keeper of the memories but Avanti is the spirit, silent and strong.

In this space I sit alone and allow my mind to travel its own course. I do not necessarily think of boat repairs or past voyages. As my gaze wanders I see a plaque commemorating our cruise to Fiji, outside I hear sparrows urging co-habitation and gulls garrulous on the wing. I do not think about implications of these inputs; I just accept them as part of the ambience of the boat and my period of meditation.

If I start to ponder on one of these inputs I try to return to being aware of my own breathing. This awareness cuts off the mind from cycling into other intrusive or even worrying thoughts. The mind can only think of one thing at a time. If I learn to use breathing as that one thought it acts as a block to bar the entry of other uncontrolled thoughts sneaking or racing in to fill the void.

To be aware of breathing is not to think of every breath as being important. The awareness is only a shallow thought, not a deep concentration. It is used to have a constant defence against the mind moving into its usual frenetic activity. I could use a different subject as a defensive thought but the breath is always there and is a simple expedient to hold at bay other runaway thoughts.

I can be anywhere to practice mindfulness and to meditate. If trying to sleep after waking at 2am, switch from troubled uncontrollable thoughts to being aware of your breathing. With practice, it is possible to work at blocking unwanted thoughts which may be keeping you awake and to allowing you to recapture sleep. Half an-hour of mindfulness and meditation eases stress and calms the racing mind. It relaxes the muscles of the body, brings peace to the soul and eases you into sleep so that later you may again burst forth into the wild ride of normal living.


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