between land & sea

guided by the Buddhist heart sutra, a novice sailor learns how to integrate emptiness while crossing the Pacific Ocean

illustration by heather horton,

As I look out from deck, I see sun dripping off the waves. The boat dips in and out of troughs in a dreamy rhythm, and the wind, like a gentle hand, nudges Spera along in harmony with the sea. The skipper adjusts the mainsail from the wheelhouse as we make our way farther and farther away from the Hawaiian Islands. Our destination: Vancouver, Canada.

Crossing the ocean is a challenge that has lured humankind for centuries. Without being consciously aware of it, I have waited for this journey since birth. It’s foreshadowed by my history. In 1959 my father and his sister departed from Italy on a cruise ship and crossed the Mediterranean and the Atlantic to join their father and brother, who had already made the pilgrimage. Together, they carved a new home into the burgeoning city of Chicago. In 1956 my mother and her parents left Cuba, crossed the Caribbean and the Atlantic and arrived in New York where they started an American way of life. This journey, etched by my parents, my grandparents and other ancestral voyagers who have crossed oceans in hopes of healing, rescue and reprieve, is inevitable.

Like my ancestors, I yearn for a new beginning. Somehow I know that a long journey will help to say goodbye to an old life and prepare for a new one. Bernard Moitessier, the famous French sailor, once said, “You do not ask a tame seagull why it needs to disappear from time to time toward the open sea. It goes, that’s all.” Though a lifelong sailor, Moitessier was more of a mystic. He too saw sailing as soulful and spent many hours at sea reveling in his solitude and communing with nature. In 1968, at age forty-three, Moitessier participated in the first nonstop around-the-world race. Six months into the race, he was logging the fastest speed and expected to take over his leading contender. Though he was sure to win, he abandoned his course, sailed one and half times around the world and then headed east toward Tahiti. “I have no desire to return to Europe with all its false gods,” Moitessier wrote in his logbook. Instead, he spent the rest of his life sailing and writing of his mystical experiences…

Adriana M. Attento is a graduate student of psychology and works in the mental health field. She is a writer, a meditation practitioner, and a sailor.

Copyright ©2007 ascent magazine, first Canadian yoga magazine, yoga for an inspired life