Talk about a jam-packed adventure… On a Nova Scotia Sea School voyage, 13 people live in a boat that is 30′ long and 7′ wide, for 5 days or longer. We are all literally on top of each other all the time; cooking and eating, getting at our gear, changing clothes, squeezing between each other to sleep, everybody talking at once. It can be an intensely claustrophobic experience.
But we’re also out along the magical Nova Scotia coast, with remote islands and rocky shores on one side, the ocean and horizon on the other, the spreading sky above. We are surrounded by vast space.
The choice between claustrophobia and space depends on which way we look.
So as a practice of shifting our attention from claustrophobia to space, we regularly do what we call “Outward Turn”. Morning and evening at anchor in a cove, we turn away from looking in at the crowded boat, and sit in silence facing out into the big world. We might do this for 5 minutes, we might do it for 30, depending on how we feel. This practice of regularly relating to space makes the claustrophobia manageable.
Our culture teaches us to be addicted to activity, and this is how we learn to mistake claustrophobia for engagement. We fill up space with tasks, with talk, with preoccupation, with judgment, with assumptions about things we’ve never bothered to really ask about, with expectations and tensions and conflicts, with deadlines and ambitions, and the list goes on.
But space is always available to us. It just depends on which way we look. We can look out a window, or go for a walk. I’ve done Outward Turn with business groups around a board room table, when the conversation gets difficult or needs a fresh perspective. Everyone turns their chairs around and faces out, even if they’re looking at a wall. It’s remarkably, unexpectedly effective.
But space is just as available without any of these techniques, when we look for it in ourselves. Learning to look out into the big world is good practice for being able to be self-engaged, to look within and find that sense of space, when we need it, on the spot.
Of course a voyage on a sail boat requires a great deal of activity. So does raising a family or building a career. Activity is not the enemy. But we don’t really benefit from jamming activity into our lives like a stuff sack. We accomplish more when we feel we have space to move.
The Sea School experience is designed to be intensely claustrophobic because it highlights the alternative. Our days stuffed with people and tasks are a great teacher about the value of space. And when we do what we need to do with that feeling of space to move, we become all-accomplishing, and the world gets very big.Crane will be teaching a weekend seminar, “The Captains Rules: Leadership Lessons from the Sea”, in Nova Scotia at the end of May. - If you like this post, please hit the like button and share it with your friends. Thank you.