Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Afflicted by Lust

On my recent trip to Southern California my mind got infected by lust. I had been surrounded by sparkling German sports cars, gleaming Harleys, and everywhere I looked I ogled a bronzed Adonis with his Aphrodite walking on the strand in skimpy beachwear.

Worst of all, we had a lovely dinner on a dock looking out on the well-kept yachts in Newport Harbor. My normally well-functioning immunity to the gimmies became exhausted. I began thinking about getting a motorcycle, a new sports car, and a new boat. I thought, too, that I should start working on my tan (not smart for someone who's already had several basal cell carcinomas whittled off his body).

In the two and a half days since then I've been able to shed all but the stickiest affliction: sailboat lust.

Every summer I get smitten at some point or another with this particular form of mental illness. My condition became acute when I came home from the video store with a copy of the new Disney documentary, Morning Light, concerning a Transpac crew of teenagers sponsored by Roy Disney. But that's fodder for another post.

I mentioned my lust to Sarah who said, "Why don't you go out and buy yourself a sailboat in the water and be done with it? Maybe you'll love it. Either that, or at least you'll get over it."

Comments like that would send some guys immediately on two errands: one to the loan officer and the next to yacht broker, but not me.

Instead, I applied my favored antidote to mental maladies: RAIN.

RAIN is an acronym for:


I find its non-linear 4-step process very helpful in untying mental formations that cause me to suffer.

I typically invoke RAIN as my strategy to relate to my fear (which is my most characteristic affliction), but RAIN works on other forms of mental suffering, even greed, as in this case.

Recognizing and Accepting

By recognizing and accepting my sailboat lust rather than trying to push it away I find I can work with it more effectively. It's there. I'm sick with it. It's got me in its grip. It's okay. That's how I am. Instead of trying to do away with my sailboat lust, I take a step closer and go to the investigation mode.


That's when I can see more than the fantasy images of sailing happily across the bay with my best friends smiling...all the good things (and they are good things) about sailing. I don't try to push these thoughts away; I still see the good things about sailing. It is fun. But I allow myself to look more deeply.

As good as sailing can be, sailing also involves lots of driving from where I live down to the marina. If I got a boat in the water, I would spend time and money with the chandlery, the sailmaker, the boat yard, and other places, too. I would write lots of checks: checks to all the aformentioned as well as checks to the marina for slip fees, to insurance companies, riggers, bottom scrubbers, and more.

The sailboat rides I would offer my friends would scare the hell out of some of them. It gets cold on the San Francisco Bay, even in summer, especially in the summer when it's so damn windy that most boats stay dockside. Sailboat stuff breaks. Broken stuff costs lots of money to fix.

Owning a sailboat would mean committing to going sailing more regularly than I'd ever actually want to go. I enjoy sailing, but I enjoy hiking more. I enjoy kayaking, bicycling, cooking and many other activities. I know I would not enjoy sailing enough to not notice that each outing was costing me hundreds of dollars.

Sailboats are inherently slow, uncomfortable, and high-maintenance vehicles. The whole idea of sailing is to make sailboats exactly what they don't want to be: fast, comfortable, and shipshape. Sailboat ownership is actually kind of crazy.


My thoughts aren't me. Thoughts are just thoughts. They come, they hang around a bit, they go.

My investigations into sailboat lust bring me closer to the actual reality of sailboat ownership, which for me is not a great fit, even though I do love to sail every now and then.

I allow this lust to have its little sleepovers in my mind, but I invite its bedfellows to come on over for the night, too. The whole party eventually smells bad.

Then, the sailboat lust begins to lose its grip. The fever breaks, dissolves.

And my equilibrium is restored.


Delwyn said...

Oh you are such I gentle soul - I love that...

You are kind to us all and now I see you are kind to yourself.
Your RAIN process is a clear way of remembering to process the unquenchable thirsts.

I also think that these longings often actually house within them something different -some other longing and if we pull them apart and take a closer look we can often assuage their driving elements by doing something else that we are more comfortable with but which brings us the same enjoyment and peace.

I have a deep longing to live in the country. I have done it before, and we also built a rural property here and developed a nursery at one stage.
But then I also love the water and the closeness to the ocean. So there is a point where we have to be mature and realize that we can't have it all and that maybe like you say 'owning' these things become a burden, so we are better to use them and borrow them at times...and satisfy our needs that way or look for alternatives ways of satisfying that need...

Nice thoughts Dan...
Happy days

steven said...

dan what an incredible post because it pulls to the forefront a common challenge for people who know better about themselves and yet succumb to the affliction without taking up the challenge. i find as i get older that my sense of entitlement grows in terms of my ability to "treat" myself but shrinks in terms of my inclination to do so. it's not so much a matter of the reality of ownership in other words, it's a matter of accepting the unreality. you express that so clearly here in the non-identifying stage. thanks for your clarity and generosity of spirit!!! have a peaceful evening. steven

Dan Gurney said...

Delwyn, I also suspect that our conscious longings mask deeper needs. Sailboat ownership, seen deeply, is about unmet needs: to be powerful and commanding (Aye! Aye! Skipper), to be wealthy (What a Capital Yacht), and free (Bon Voyage!). In my case, the first (power and command) is probably most active; I notice that during the school year when I've got charge of a classroom I have little interest in sailboat ownership.

I share your longing for a country home. But I know I would not really be happy living in the country. It'd be too lonely and inconvenient for me. So I visit the country on hikes.

Dan Gurney said...

Thank you, Steven, for your thoughts.

Like you, my ability and feeling of entitlement to indulge myself has grown with age, but fortunately, like you, my inclination to do so has waned even more. The latter is lucky for me.

Margaret Pangert said...

Hi Dan~
This is an interesting way of workng through something. I wonder though if there should be an alternative category, other options: could you rent a sailboat for just that one day you'd like to go sailing? Do you need to take advantage of the fact that you live in the most beautiful place in the world for water sports? How high is its appeal to the rest of the family? I think you feel right about the outcome, so it's right for you. I was a little upset this morning, and I felt synchronicity from your post with my worry--it was like an answer to a prayer almost. OK, R=recognize: Vanity. I wanted accolades for my production of Mary Magdalene last night. A=accept: The purpose of the production was to give people a meditative evening on woman's role in the church, how the pagan world was turning on its ear at at that moment in time, to internalize the peace, love, bliss, that Mary Magdalene portrayed. I=investigate: how was the ambiance? how was the reaction of the audience? How did the music contribute to the play? How was the setting? How attractive was the dicussion/refreshments room? Non-ID: The program was clearly successful. I can detach from the program. I can be happy for the program without needing praise because I do not = the program. How's my logic here, Dan? You know, it worked. Thank you.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi Margaret—

Yes, other options abound. I employ them. I'm a member of a sailing club and I have sailing friends who own big boats. I get to sail as much as I really need to. Delwyn's suspicion that under the sailboat lust lurks other more basic unmet needs is really spot-on and helpful. That need, well met during the school year, is to be in charge and connected. My summertime interest in sailing feeds off of my summertime idleness.

I'm glad RAIN was helpful to you. Yes, you used it with skill, as intended.

Anonymous said...

Why not just rent a sail boat for a few days? Just a thought.

Alden Smith said...

I think this is a very interesting post and I like the system you have for dealing with these intruders into your mind. I have a sailboat that I built many years ago so I identify will all you say - some of which remains - but the overriding truth of sailing is its connection with the transcendent in our world - to sail (for me) is to become connected to something bigger than myself - of course to get that one can hire a boat and do without the ownership. Very very good post.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Alden,

If I built my sailboat it would take my sailboat obsession to a whole new level.

As it is now, I sold my Laser. I've been sea kayaking a lot. It's good. I don't have any boat lust now, thank goodness!