A special impact of sailing is the new rubric of mindfulness. It is simply abandoning one’s worries of the day in the moment of appreciation—while under sail. Call it Zen.
Other modern concepts of psychology termed this The Zone. Writers get into The Zone when they find themselves caught up in their text, moving quickly and effortlessly through hundreds of words.
Athletes get into The Zone on the field, with total concentration. Musicians get into it while performing, and sometimes while practicing. Time flies and yet stands still. Contrast this experience with doing your taxes, going to the dentist, or raking leaves. Time crawls.
“The Concept of Flow” dates to the 1970s and was updated in a paper by Jeanne Nakamura and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. They list several characteristics that apply wonderfully to sailing:
“Intense and focused concentration on what one is doing in the present moment • Merging of action and awareness • Loss of reflective self-consciousness (i.e., loss of awareness of oneself as a social actor) • Distortion of temporal experience (typically, a sense that time has passed faster than normal) • Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding.”
Another definition of mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations.”
I prefer the definition offered by mindful.org: “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
To be fully present
Note that this just doesn’t happen. It’s a “basic human ability to be fully present,” in another words, actively thinking. Under sail, the feelings entail graceful movement through the seas while the wind whistles through the rigging.
Again, thoughts drift away from the daily grind into a moment of movement that is eerily quiet. Bodily sensations include bracing oneself as the boat heels 5 or 10 degrees out of the wind.
For many, mindfulness requires a daily practice of yoga to reach a meditative state. That’s not how I envision sailing. Instead, people should just let themselves go and enjoy it for what it is. Try not to overthink it.
Note as well that kids on cellphones do not qualify. Kids with autism do. Their capacity to concentrate is sometimes enhanced in the majestic outdoor setting of the sea.