This bit of backstory was written in September 2015.
Home today after a week on the Bay learning to sail during the days and at home on my boat in the Berkeley Marina at night. Last night I woke back in my house in San Francisco very late from deep sleep. I had to pee. I could see the boom in the dark. I knew that the boat was going to jibe if I got up to pee, meaning that the rear of the boat would pass through the direction the wind was coming from and that the mainsail would cross the boat with the wind. The boom, the big metal bar perpendicular to the mast which supports the base of that sail, was therefore going to come across the bed. There wasn't enough room on the other side of the bed for the boom to come out to a broad reach, so how was I going to get up to pee? As I lay there confused and puzzling it out, I gradually woke enough to know that I was, in fact in my bed, my eyes were open, and... yeah. I could just get up! I did.
On the way back to bed I was still confused: I was certain my eyes were open when I had seen the boom! What was happening? When I got to my room, the shade was open a few inches on my side of the bed to match the window, letting in a bit of night air. The streetlights and full moon were gleaming off the white edge of the fireplace mantle, which, since our bed sits in the room on a diagonal against the far wall, meant that the "boom" was, in fact, on a broad reach on one side of the bed, but didn't have the same room on the other side of the bed. Oh, oh, the mind! Mixing the realms, digesting, integrating.
The main thing I am digesting, though, is not my joy at sailing, or the many techniques I am learning, or the balance in the future of life on land and at sea, but, in fact, the painful knowledge that I was not, in the early challenging part of the learning, the kind, calm, gracious person I have striven so hard to become in my middle age and am proud to be. I was an old self: anxious, hummingbird-fast, narrow-sighted in my fear, and at one point when an instructor spoke to me in a raised voice saying that I was doing it wrong when I was stricken with terror and steering the boat in a narrow place between rock walls in high wind, I actually stamped my feet like a child against the hull and wailed at him. Afterward I went home and wept for close to an hour, something I cannot remember doing in nearly a decade.
I understand where that comes from. A very old response, a childhood response, and it is, in the end, a blessing to know that this is still within me, that there is so much more to heal, and therefore so much more peace and ease to come when that does heal. But the ego, the ego which has for a long while been lucky to live a life in which I generally act in ways that bring joy or peace to others, and am safe, and am therefore able to be calm and kind, that ego did not like seeing how when I was in terror and responsible for the lives of others and making dangerous mistakes and someone spoke to me loudly, how I was small and sharp and nothing like gracious. I am holding that poor little frightened girl in great compassion. I am holding the woman who is that little girl and who is sad not to be as big-hearted and steady as she imagined herself in great compassion. I am considering how to work in meditation with that old pattern to unwind it. I am reminding myself that it is there, that it wasn't a fluke, that this is me, also, and that I have to own that and keep knowing that in order to remember to unwind it.
It would be easy to bury this. I could stay in the life that does not trigger those reactions, and I could bury them, hide them away and stay proud and tell myself I am already so serene, just perfect. But I am not, as almost none of us are. And as someone who stands up often to teach, to show others how they can grow, how they can do better for themselves for the sake of all beings, I felt that it was important to be honest about my own work there, too. I know how to walk this healing path because I had to walk it myself, because I continue to walk it myself every day, sometimes on hands and bloody knees, sobbing.
We heal what we can see. The longer we practice, the deeper we go in the story and the harder and older the stuff that we can see to heal is. In time we get down toward the core wounds of our oldest selves, which are often patterns that run through our lineage for many generations. We heal ourselves to heal now -- also to heal the past, and to heal the future.
Thank you, ocean. Thank you, kind classmates on the sea. Thank you, teacher, for showing me what is still in there. Thank you to my elders for doing the hard work of healing these things themselves and inspiring me by showing me that it can get so much better. And thank you all for loving me as I am: working hard, having made so much progress, but still with so far to go on the path to full freedom.
May we all be free.