When We Set Out

Let Spirit Steer Us



KieferPix/Shutterstock.com

Teaching me how to steer the 30-foot-long sailboat he built, my father would say, “It’s the sail that follows the wind, and the rudder that follows the sail.” The sail, by its nature, will catch the wind and lean into it. The rudder is for steering once we’ve set sail.

Our soul is like a sail. Once hoisted, it’s filled by the wind of Spirit, which establishes our course and direction. Our will is our rudder; its job is to follow where the soul filled with Spirit leads, helping to steer our way. When we lean on will to make things happen, we can grow stubborn, confused or lost. Clear sailing comes when we’re being carried toward a vision greater than our self, feeling wholly alive along the way.

Scudding along the sea, my father was living once for all time, feeling the sensation of all life in that moment. We all yearn to live in these moments forever, yet even a taste of aliveness can fill, sustain and refresh us in the midst of daily tasks.

We all face times beyond our control when life doesn’t follow our designs and we’re asked to work with life and not fight, curse or hide from it. When insisting on our way, we can get so tangled in our will that we can’t find or feel the wind of Spirit. During these times—when we fear there is no meaning and it seems there’s nothing holding us up—our will can puff, snap and flap about in a desperate attempt to fill what looms as an empty life.

But even setting out on the sea, it’s never easy. My father remarked, “It’s always harder to sail toward a fixed point, because you will inevitably have to cross the wind several times to get there.” By contrast, a boat moves its fastest and cleanest when it simply follows the wind. It’s the same when we listen for where life is taking us, instead of busily thinking about where we’re going. Devoting ourselves to experiencing the journey, rather than determining a destination, we discover our way.

Like a sail, our life must be out in the open before the wind will show its face. Likewise, Spirit fills us when we can inhabit our true nature. We miss what awaits us if we hover too close to the shore of our past, our family, someone else’s dream for us, or an old identity. To feel the wind in our face, we must leave the shallows and harbors for the deep. Only then will the larger, timeless destination show itself and our soul be filled enough with Spirit that our smaller self will have no choice but to engage in steering us toward all that matters.


Adapted excerpt from The One Life We’re Given: Finding the Wisdom that Waits in Your Heart, by Mark Nepo (Atria). Connect at MarkNepo.com and ThreeIntentions.com.


This article appears in the May 2017 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Veggie Fest 2017

Dogs Need Detoxing Too

Steps such as altering a dog’s diet and adding key supplements will restore mental and physical energies, restore the shine in their eyes and the luster in their coat.

Maria Rodale Helps Organic Farmers Succeed

To spur consumer demand and help farmers, the Rodale Institute performs top-quality research on the benefits of eating organic foods and optimal farming methods.

An Awesome Antidote to Polarization

In these black-versus-white days of civic discord, awe opens us up to fresh views and the value of respectful, harmonious living.

Coal Phase-Out Boosts Health

Both premature deaths and hospital admissions caused by air pollution have dropped sharply since Ontario systematically closed down its coal-fired power plants.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags

See More »This Month

#ChicagoKidsYoga Fest: A Chat with Jen Robertson

Jen Robertson, event director for the first Chicago Kids Yoga Fest, talks about yoga for children and families.

Nutritional Supplements Aid Regularity

According to Steven Frank, founder of Nature’s Rite, an herbal remedies company, two key nutrients can contribute to a solution for constipation.

Evanston Green Ball Now Includes Child-Sitting Service During Event

The fourth annual Evanston Green Ball will be hosted by the Evanston Environmental Association and the city of Evanston from 7 to 10:30 p.m., May 29, at the Levy Center, in Evanston. New this year, an Eco-Center Sitter service is available for parents to drop off their children at the Levy Center when they arrive for the ball and pick them up as they leave the event.

Dr. Patawaran Joins Raby Institute

The Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern has added Primary Care Integrative Physician Dominic Patawaran, M.D., to their staff.

The Way of the Happy Woman Workshop

Author Sara Avant will talk about her new book, The Way of the Happy Woman: Living the Best Year of Your Life, and sign copies at Heaven Meets Earth Yoga, in Evanston.

5Rhythms and Open Floor IN CHICAGO

The Open Floor Movement Practice is based on embodiment through the perspective of the 4x4.