Besides all the technical details of planning, provisioning, sailing, etc., doing something like this kind of trip involves a good bit of work on how you get yourself through it, body and spirit. It’s often just plain fun, which does the trick just fine at those times. But being out, particularly for so long, is also challenging, both physically and in terms of how it feels emotionally. I have a small but sturdy collection of tools that help keep my personal well-being reasonably in order, on both counts.
On the body front, along with basic things like regular exercises and attending to sore muscles, including carrying a “thera-cane” on board to be able to easily and effectively work on back and shoulder muscles, I’ve also been working with a variation on Yamuna Body Rolling (thank you Joanne!) Ordinarily this version of bodywork self-care involves using a soft ball about 10 inches in diameter, but the small boat version is scaled down, with a firmer ball about 5 inches in diameter. It works well for following muscles, using one’s body weight to apply gentle pressure from where the muscles begin to where they attach at the far end, helping them release and let go. This helps not only the muscles but nearby nerves, connective tissue, etc. That’s a tiny description of a more involved process, but if anybody is interested it’s easy to find out more at: http://www.yamunabodyrolling.com I’m particularly fond of the book Body Rolling: An Experiential Approach to Complete Muscle Release, by Yamuna Zake. Though this book is directed toward bodywork practitioners, it’s a gold mine for anybody who’s inclined to really get into the subject, regardless of background.
The bottom line, on the body front, is that along with good food and a moderate collection of favorite supplements, quite a bit of time doing bodywork has been really helpful. Days in quiet harbors are a real treat for this, and have made the difference between this whole boat project being doable and simply not.
And then there’s the inner work. I do a lot of this anyway, at home, in the process of working through old history. But I’ve been surprised to find that the same tools I’ve come to for working on old issues have been very, very useful for the more immediate strains of sailing/cruising. The two from which I get the most mileage are EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) and TRE (Trauma Releasing Exercises).
EFT involves tapping on a series of acupuncture points, while focusing on the particular issue at hand. The theory is that this releases blockages in the energy meridians, leading to more ease and comfort, both physically and emotionally. One of the lovely things about it is that there is no need to force a dividing line between physical and emotional experience – whatever seems primary, whether it’s fear of the rocks, or pain in a shoulder, one can go through the EFT routine focused on that issue, and allow the strain to move, and change, following and tapping one’s way through, and out the other side of, wherever it leads. Surprisingly often doing this makes a real difference, creating ease where before there was anything but.
There’s a lot of material on the Internet about EFT these days, some of it better than others. The book that I like the best is The Promise of Energy Psychology, by David Feinstein, Donna Eden, and Gary Craig. It’s coherent, and low on hype, and does a good job of explaining some of the more detailed levels of what’s going on and how to best use this tool. On the Internet there is http://www.emofree.com which is the website run by Gary Craig, who first worked out and continues to develop EFT. Free tutorials are available on that site, both text and video, and with a bit of time one can very effectively teach oneself how to work with EFT and begin using it. (I’m probably going to say this about a million times on this blog – I’m not affiliated with any of these folks, and I’m not getting anything for making any of these references. I just like their work, and I’ve gotten a lot from it.)
On the sailing front, I have used EFT for everything from fear of leaving a harbor to mortification over discovering that when I anchored at 9 PM in the dark in a small, unfamiliar harbor I ended up square in the middle of the channel, which became obvious at six in the morning when just about every lobster boat in the harbor was squeezing by about 3 feet away. EFT is great for mortification…
It’s a broad subject, potential topics for EFT work while sailing, but I’ll leave it there.
There are also things that happen while sailing/cruising that can be really, really scary. Sometimes this is because present events resonate with old ones, and, hopefully not often, sometimes this is because a present event has had the potential for real catastrophe. For these situations, I start with EFT – sometimes during, if it doesn’t interfere with appropriate action in the moment, and almost always after. And a funny thing can happen in the time when it’s safe to relax after the event is over, and one has the space to settle in with what’s going on internally. Bodies have a way of releasing fear, tension, and stress, by shaking it out – the kind of shaking that many people have experienced after something like a car accident. The technical term for this shaking is “neurogenic tremors.” Trauma Releasing Exercises are a technique for accessing those body tremors, but I’ve found that once one is familiar with what’s going on it’s easy enough to just let them happen, and run themselves out, with no need for specific exercises. There is fascinating work, done by David Berceli, on this subject.
Berceli has written a couple of books and produced DVDs based on his work, which has been done primarily with survivors of war trauma and survivors of extreme natural disasters, particularly the big earthquakes in China, and I believe with the tsunami that did so much terrible damage a few years ago. Unfortunately you can’t just get all the information on the Internet – but one can understand that a person needs to make a living! It’s just a little less convenient to have to actually order the book or a DVD (my how times have changed!) I found the shorter book, titled Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE): a revolutionary new method for trauma/stress recovery (2005) really useful.
Anyway, the technique of actively choosing to shake out the effects of seriously scary situations has been really, really useful to me. It’s so simple, is grounded in what other mammals on the planet do routinely, and is incredibly effective for moving beyond difficult experiences.
People bring up with me fairly often this subject of fear, when it comes to being out and about this way, sailing a good distance from home. And of course I get scared, or worried, or significantly stressed about one or another aspect of being out on the water. I’m a person who’s prone to worry anyhow, and there are, after all, significant concerns, given weather, rocks, equipment issues, and the multitude of judgment calls involved in sailing. The real answer is yes, it can be scary – or embarrassing, or a number of versions of distressing, or sometimes simply infuriating (for exactly how long is that wind going to NOT blow?) – but it’s just a bit more of a compressed version of everyday Life. It’s the tools for moving through these everyday events that make it doable. What I love about being off in the boat is that being out here also provides space for moving through everything that doing this brings up in the first place. And the more one moves through, the more peaceful the whole business gets. It’s a fascinating process, and that fascination is part of what keeps me so engaged with the whole undertaking.
I used to do this kind of distance sailing without most of the above-mentioned tools. And of course I found other ways to deal with the very same strains. But I like it better this way. There’s nothing like the right tool for a job.