The phrase, may you have fair winds and following seas, is a toast commonly given to a mariner about to embark on a lengthy sea voyage. For a steady wind moving in the same direction as the ship and waves that assist the passage by their bearing and moderate strength are conditions to be wished for on any long voyage. With such help a mariner can make steady progress towards the goal, with league after league of ocean rolling beneath the ship. Then more sail can be added, for if the winds are steady and not gusting, the masts can be filled with billowing canvas, every square yard set with sail. What is true for the mariner is also true for the traveler on the inner journey. To have sufficient health and energy, to have found reliable spiritual guidance, and to be accompanied by companions walking the same path together are conditions devoutly to be wished for. With sustained effort and an unswerving direction, one can travel a long way under such conditions.

But, what then, when there is a change in the inner weather? For whether by death or disability, or simply due to a change in life, one’s access to the guide will certainly one day no longer be possible. Your good and true spiritual friends might take other paths, or give up entirely before much progress has been made. And one’s own desire may falter, as life has its way with us. When such stormy weather comes some sail must be furled in order to protect the ship, all the while awaiting a more favorable wind. But, if from an excess of caution, all sail is struck it is a most grievous error, for then the ship will not stay the course, and will fall broadside to the wind. Then the ship will likely founder, and the entire voyage will have come to an untimely end.

There is another thing, too. An inexperienced sailor, seeing a horizon black with racing clouds, may react with dismay even though no storm shall come. It is a false alarm, but still the voyage is finished. Many times a seeker, starting out on the path, encounters an obstacle that causes them to simply give up, for they have not yet made enough real progress to sustain them through those first obstacles. And, having little experience, they wrongly surmise that the other ships and their crews are overmatched, when in reality the storm clouds are nothing but creations of the voyager’s own imaginings.

For some, who have been on the voyage of passage longer, there are other dangers. One is failing to see that the prevailing wind has changed, and while seeming the same, is no longer steady, but is now gusting unexpectedly. Yet they sail on as before, overreaching their capacity because they did not understand that there is a time for rapidity and a time for a more deliberate movement. In such times the cautious voyager should be thoughtful and ponder what course may now be best. And the opposite may also happen, for if conditions improve mid-voyage an accelerated pace is possible. Then the situation is reversed and, whether through inertia or a lack of awareness, the seeker squanders the opportunity it may be to the detriment of the entire voyage.

One needs to always assume that the present situation will not last, whether it be good or ill. When it does change, be not surprised by it, but be prepared to act rightly so that the voyage to the far harbor may continue, taking in or letting out sail as is called for. The requirement is this—take nothing for granted, but always make use of the current situation as circumstances allow. For it is the voyage of a lifetime, and only one opportunity is given to each of us to make the passage.

And, to the reader, I conclude today with a toast that each of you may encounter your own full share of fair winds and following seas on your journey.

Comments are welcome.

 

2 Comments

  1. I toast with you this winter evening by the warm fire-to my fellow travellers wherever they are on their spiritual journey.

    The winds of my life have changed, the sails mended many times, the course corrected.

    Your wise words remind me of Cavafy’s poem.
    Of a potentially harrowing sea voyage, it must be true then, that “Arriving (there) is what you are destined for. But do not hurry the journey at all. Better it last for years so you are old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you have gained on the way, not expecting Ithaca to make you rich”.

    Thank you, Dennis.

  2. What a lovely poem you share, dear friend. May we again hoist more sail on our voyage in the not so distant future. Be well, Dennis

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