Patricia Taylor Monthly Adventure SailingShamanism.

What does this have to do with sailing?

Nothing yet. Read on…

Shamanism…the word alone provokes fleeting mysterious images of a supernatural force bewitching those who are particularly vulnerable and defenceless.

It elicits visions of ritualized ceremonies that involve a chicken drained of its life-force while sounds of chanting and drumming escalate in tempo and intensity with the beat of your heart.

But then again, maybe it just simply evokes abstract thoughts of a dark and dangerous sorcery that involve the invocation of spirits or demons for the greater good.

Or not.

For me, I simply assumed shamanism to be some sort of a spiritual thing shrouded in an atmosphere of strangeness and mystery. Pretty much, I had no clue whatsoever what a shaman was, or what they did for that matter. But, after looking up the definition in the dictionary, I wasn’t entirely certain if my ‘preconceived notions’ were that far off base.

“Shaman: a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits. Typically such people enter a trance state during a ritual, and practice divination and healing.”


Now, I’ll admit to my having doubts about the whole thing. I seriously contemplated the possibility of it being nothing more than some sort of hocus-pocus ‘spiritual’ entertainment for those seeking something – anything – in their lives that resembled ‘meaning’. And to be frank, I also questioned how many clients actually look into the so-called shamanic “credentials”. After all, couldn’t any Tom, Dick and Harry off the street claim to be a shaman?  But an even better question to ask is this –> do shamans even have credentials?

I honestly have no idea.

Wading my way through unchartered waters, I set up an appointment with a local company to see a shaman who was coming in from Peru. He was called a ‘Curandero’ healer, which meant he was extraordinarily religious and spiritual. Not only that, but also of the opinion that the cause of many illnesses are due to malevolent spirits, a curse, or a lesson from God.

Take your pick.

It left me feeling somewhat unsettled…and excited. Did it mean my curse from God was finally going to be lifted, I mean, lessen? Would the shaman see some sort of dark entity attached to my brain, merging with my mind, telling me to go choke down another potato chip? Was I going to have the very core of my foundations rocked?

Uh…not exactly.

Patricia Taylor Monthly Adventure SailingPrior to meeting with the shaman, I made the executive decision to leave ALL preconceived notions and judgements at the door, thus adhering to the concept of keeping an open mind. Not an easy task when already filled with such doubt.

It became increasingly evident that English was not the shaman’s first language. I clued in to this interesting little factoid when the third person sitting in the corner of the room began to translate the entire conversation.

THAT was unusual.

It made me feel as though I was meeting with a visiting dignitary who had his very own personal translator. And the more I thought about this new, and most fascinating development, the more I was impressed. I realized I might actually be sitting with someone who was the real-meal-deal.

A bona fide shaman.

After a few moments of translated discussion, we got on to the healing part of the session. Laying back on something similar to a massage table covered with blankets and cushions, I could smell the delicious scent of rose water as it permeated the room. I wasn’t exactly sure why rose water was used in the ceremony – but who really cared? I could bathe in that stuff. After a period of time, I felt myself sliding away into a meditative, peaceful state (afternoon nap), feeling safe and warm and comfortable under the blankies, smelling nice.

Then something of an unusual nature occurred.

Patricia Taylor Monthly Adventure SailingI had what I suspect was a vision.

It felt as though I was transported to another time, another place. In it, I found myself standing on a sailboat at dusk looking out at the twilight sky – a myriad of purples, blues, and mauves. No land was in sight, only the sea and the sky. A warm breeze caressed my face, my skin. And as I smelled the saltwater, I held onto the mast, looking off into the distance at the silent ocean, feeling content, calm, and free. I was at peace with myself and the world as I knew it.  And wearing a bikini.

I felt my ‘hackles’ raise slightly when the session ended, specifically when the translator told me how the shaman saw me on the boat.


And to make things even more interesting, I’ve never set foot on a sailboat.

Still discombobulated from the experience a few days later, a friend of mine strongly pressured me suggested that I get onto a sailboat. After all, the vision must have meant something, he argued. One itty-bitty problem with this great idea was that the cost of renting a sailboat for a single day was WAAAAY out of my price range.  And it certainly didn’t include the cost of hiring a skipper, the person who actually knows how to operate the ginormous floating thing.

That’s when a moment of pure unadulterated brilliance slapped me upside the head.

Take sailing lessons.

A week later, I enrolled into a sailing certification class. For four days, I learned the ins and outs of navigation, sailboat terminology, how to sail the damn thing – and whatever else the instructor thought important.  Yours truly became a skipper.

My speciality is the 18-32 foot sailboat.

The thing is this – maybe there is no rhyme or reason for this adventure. Maybe I was just being Buddhist and going with the flow and trying out something new. Or maybe, just maybe, the sailing lessons will be of significant importance sometime down the road.  But then again, maybe the whole thing was about me looking fabulous in that skimpy bikini.  😀

Without a doubt, I cannot stress how empowered I felt when I successfully accomplished something so monumental in such a short time. I felt invincible…like I could do anything.

Interesting Factoids about Sailing (and pirates)

  • The sails are vertical ‘wings’ that provide ‘lift’ like an airplane’s wings.
  • The wind pulls the boat – it does not not push the boat.
  • A sea anchor does not touch the ocean floor – it just keeps the boat in place.
  • Pirates believed that wearing pierced earrings would improve their eyesight.

Why take sailing lessons?

  • It’s a slow and pleasurable adventure…the kind where you can actually stop to smell the roses.
  • You see things up close and personal, discovering places few people have ever seen.
  • You don’t need gas to power your way, the wind will take you wherever you want to go.
  • You’re doing your part for the environment.


Without a doubt, I cannot stress how empowered I felt when I successfully accomplished my certification in such a short period of time. I became a skipper on a sailboat!! How cool is that? What it gave me is the licence to get on a boat and find freedom in whatever form it takes. And to harness nature – the winds and the waters – in order to go somewhere…anywhere.

By doing this, for the first time ever, it felt like I became the Captain of my own life – and I knew that I could do anything…go anywhere…be anything.

© Monthly Adventure, Patricia Taylor, March 2008Patricia Taylor | Monthly Adventure | Sailing