Staying “in the flow” has helped me navigate the ups and downs of our expeditions. One of the things that has helped me ride these waves and keep it together is my meditation practice — although frankly, it doesn’t look like typical meditation.
Here’s a little back story on how I learned about this practice. I met Dr. Ed Bastian 20 years ago while running conferences about spirituality and environment. Nobody is keeping score… but honestly he’s more interesting than the Dos Equis beer commercial guy. He produced documentaries about India and the Dalai Lama; was saved by his famous Aspen neighbor Hunter Thompson (don’t die, goddamit!), ran cutting edge Smithsonian programs, launched a tech startup in the late 90s; and devoted his profits to start the Spiritual Paths Institute to give people a path to creating their own authentic meditation practice.
By working with other spiritual leaders, Dr. Ed Bastian (who has a PhD in Buddhism and decades of training) found the commonalities in different spiritual traditions and created a common language of contemplation. InterSpiritual Meditation was born.
Although I dabbled for awhile, I began to practice InterSpiritual Meditation in earnest once we embarked on Green Coconut Run, our cooperative sailing adventure from California to Tahiti. Initially, I gravitated to this daily practice as a stabilizing force during the adventures of our trip.
Every expedition has big ups and downs. In our case, being a cooperative trip, we scheduled an entire year at a time, to sail places we’d never been before, across thousands of miles in different countries, to pick up people along the way who didn’t know how to sail… On paper, this was a perfect recipe for disaster.
Exploring by sailboat is an enormous joy, however. Waking up at idyllic anchorages, the freedom of sailing with the wind, watching sunsets after surfing and spearfishing with your friends — this incredible stoke fueled us to keep going. The highs were super high. But the lows were potentially very low… I had to manage my emotions from spiraling downhill.
After all as captain, every day I faced a barrage of challenges from boat breakdowns, weather mayhem, bureaucratic dysfunction or crew turmoil. It would have been easy to say, “Enough of people and schedules! Let me enjoy this on my own!” Which a lot of sailors do, literally… even if they start as a couple, sometimes they end up solo, because managing each others’ emotions can be really tough in this wild rollercoaster. They call that “divorce sailing”, which we aimed to avoid at all costs!
The Interspiritual Meditation practice was one of the main tools I credit for helping me “keep it together”, both mentally, and as a community. It helped prevent the crash-and-burn I’ve seen with other sailors; and helped me stay in the flow so I could do a good job as captain.
Here’s how this practice is different, in my own experience. Meditation normally focuses on training the mind — to slow down, to become self-aware through attention and inquiry. InterSpiritual meditation does something slightly different — it elevates the mind. Through its 7 steps, it strengthens our character virtues. This gradually re-programs our idiosyncrasies, and leads to positive states of self-awareness.
Here are the 7 steps:
1. May I be happy & healthy
2. May I be grateful
3. May I be transformed
4. May I be compassionate
5. May I be mindful
6. May I be wise
7. May I be of service
Seems pretty straightforward? But let me offer a contrasting approach. If we focus daily on petty stuff, filling our mind with drama and angry, stressed emotions, that becomes the mindset we are reinforcing. Ever notice that if you’re around people who are constantly on a bummer, we become on a bummer too? Likewise, when my mindset was poor, I noticed I made more mistakes… whether it was fixing stuff on the boat, or dealing with crew members, little problems could spiral into big problems.
When I kept a good mindset, our expedition seems to go better. I could resolve things more smoothly. I was able to follow intuition, and often (sometimes!) avoid problems. I was more in the flow, responding with creative agility and a playful attitude. I had fewer assumptions and judgments — which, in my opinion, are the root causes of mistakes, derived from having crystallized negative mindsets.
Here’s the way I see it: if we focus our intention on stuff we actually want, such as more love in our lives, harmony in relationships, fulfillment in career, that program permeates our state of mind. This is what InterSpiritual Meditation seeks to do; reinforce those universal spiritual expressions in ourselves, whether or not we practice a religious tradition.
A new course on InterSpiritual Meditation is starting next week on January 18, click here for details. I invite you to join Dr. Ed Bastian and co-instructor Alejandra Warden on an 8 week online course that will introduce you to InterSpiritual Meditation and guide you to create and refine your own authentic spiritual path.
I hope you find the same benefits as it brought to me, and the rest of our cooperative adventure!