This article was published in the Canal and River Trust Boaters' Update 18 May 2018
Comments and feedback
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Mindfulness of Boating
"With such a literal title this article doesn’t need much introduction. Boater Bob Chase, an experienced meditation teacher with over 25 years of personal practice, explains why boaters can benefit from mindfulness" Damian Kemp CRT
“Live the dream! Join the jolly boaters on the Cut.
The promise that owning a boat will free you from life’s worries is a potent one. It’s a message that suits boaters, boating businesses and organisations alike. We are all invested in this message to different degrees.
“Suggestions that it might, sometimes, be less than wonderful don’t get much air time and can be uncomfortable.
“It’s not that I don’t appreciate the boating life; after all, I have lived on three boats spanning thirty years. My own experience is that, whilst it has its compensating joys, many cares followed me onto the boat and were added to by new ones.
“The phrase that came to resonate with me was “Wherever you go – there you are”. It neatly summed up for me the dilemma of seeking solutions outside of ourselves for internal issues. It comes from a book of the same name by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Jon is a scientist, a meditator and one of the founders of the Mindfulness movement.
“Stepping aboard a boat is often wonderful but even on an idyllic day can’t prevent a less than idyllic frame of mind popping up. There is so much rubbish! And why didn’t that boat close the gates behind them? GRRR! At a deeper level our anxieties, troubles and worries can also follow us, refusing to stay on shore.
“Boat living is also a compromise solution for many people. After separating from my partner my return to boating life was driven by finances as much as a love of the Cut. It has been tough at times and I know I am not the only one to experience this.
“Mindfulness has become a way of looking after myself, during both good and difficult times on the Cut. I learned meditation years ago and now teach Mindfulness on my boat. Mindfulness of this and that appears almost everywhere these days. I would say look beyond the hype and talk to someone who practises Mindfulness. Find out what they think.
“Acknowledging this gap between how we want the world to be and reality is central to Mindfulness. Focussing on the present moment can help us notice this gap and our reactions to it. The teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says “When you drink tea - just drink tea”. That is, to intentionally focus on what you are doing and your present moment experience without judging it. Easy, huh?
“So for us boaters we can start by: just steering the boat when we steer; just lifting the paddle, when we lift a paddle and Oh! when someone takes your mooring space, smile at them and see how it feels.”
Bob Chase May 2018
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Find out more
The Mental Health Foundation is a good independent source of information on Mindfulness and Mental Health. They have a clear explanation, a list of teachers and an online course that may be of interest to cruising boaters.