GUEST POSTING – The Board Member’s Voyage: A Sailor’s Challenge

BLOG ADMINISTRATOR’S NOTE: Last October Cynthia received a wholehearted endorsement and reference to her book Mystical Hope in a blog entry by scientist, business executive, and entrepreneur Ricardo Levy. Cynthia was delighted at how profoundly the essence of her book was captured in such an unexpected context, that she suggested we re-post here. So thank you to Ricardo Levy for allowing us to share your insights on this blog page. (Please see for the original posting of this entry).


October 21, 2011

“On a bright, sunny day you can set your course on a landfall five miles away from you and sail right to it. But in the fog, you make your way by paying close attention to all the things immediately around you: the deep roll of the sea swells as you enter open ocean, the pungent scent of spruce boughs, or the livelier tempos of the waves as you approach land. You find your way by being sensitively and sensuously connected to exactly where you are, by letting ‘here’ reach out and lead you. You will not learn that in the navigation courses, of course. But it is part of the local knowledge that all the fishermen and natives use to steer by. You know you belong to a place when you can find your way home by feel.”

A friend recently shared this passage from Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault’s book Mystical Hope.  It is a lovely analogy describing the duality of consciousness that we can employ to chart a course to the same destination, yet experience the journey in entirely different manners. As Ms. Bourgeault further tells us,

“While egoic thinking is like sailing by reference to where you are not – by what is out there and up ahead – spiritual awareness is like navigating by reference to where you are. It is a way of “thinking” at a much more visceral level of yourself – responding to subtle intimations of presence too delicate to pick up at your normal level of awareness.”

It is navigating by reference to where you are in the moment, using less obvious cues to find your way, cues that, as she points out elsewhere, “emerge like a sea swell from the ground of your being once you relax and allow yourself to belong deeply to the picture.”

Applicable to so many aspects of my life, and such a good a metaphor for a sailor…

I have been thinking about this duality of approach in the context of my Board work. As a director, my key responsibility is to focus on the sight five miles out, which is natural for me as I am always seeking the “big picture,” and believe I can help pilot us toward our objective. Yet I also have this inclination to respond to what I believe I am sensing as the more detailed and subtle currents and patterns of the moment. When this happens, I need to remind myself that I am only sensing a small fraction of the real churning of the waters and the sudden shifts in the wind patterns. There is only one person that feels the fullness of the moment, and that is the real navigator — the CEO. When it comes to these “realities and intimations of the moment,” I have to remind myself that I am not the pilot now. I was once, and loved it. Now I am the coach; I am the teacher; I am the mentor. Not the captain. What I see is only a part of the canvas, maybe only the echoes of land we are about to touch rather than the full force of the trials and tribulations of the running of a business. This puts my “action orientation” to the test, requiring me to have faith that much good is happening and there is a very competent captain on board. It forces me to step fully into the “unknown.” And even though I dedicated a full chapter to this practice in my book, I am still learning to be comfortable there. It teaches me to be humble, remaining present even in the fog. Hopefully I will also add at times some of my wisdom to seeing subtleties in the fog that may be missed by others.

The Bourgeault passages that my friend shared inspired me to read the entire book, and in it I discovered a depth that is only hinted at in the sailing metaphor. Here is a sampling:

“…I saw how time – all our times – are contained in something bigger: a space that is none other than Mercy itself. The fullness (or ‘end’) of time becomes this space: a vast, gentle wilderness in which all possible outcomes – all our little histories, past, present, and future; all our hopes and dreams – are already contained and, mysteriously, already fulfilled.”

“If only we could understand this more deeply! If only we could see and trust that all our ways of getting there, all our courses over time – our good deeds, our evil deeds, our regrets, our compulsive choosings and the fallout from those choosings, our things left undone and paths never actualized – are quietly held in an exquisite fullness that simply poises in itself, then pours itself out in a single glance of the heart. If we could only glimpse that, even for an instant, then perhaps we would be able to sense the immensity of love that seeks to meet us at the crossroads of the Now, when we yield ourselves entirely to it.”

The concept that “all possible outcomes – all our little histories, past, present, and future; all our hopes and dreams – are already contained and, mysteriously, already fulfilled” is profound. Delving deeply into it is beyond the scope of this post – and my own depth of understanding of this topic. But I encourage you to dive in. To tease your interest, I suggest you consider Bourgeault’s words in the context of some of the newest thinking on quantum wave-particle duality and its relationship to consciousness…

“Central to the theory of quantum physics is that all matter exhibits the properties of both particles and waves. This central concept is called the wave-particle duality. It is also universally agreed that waves of quantum objects are waves of possibility.
Each measurement causes a change in the state of matter “from a wave of possibilities to a particle of actuality”. This change is called the collapse of the wave function. In simple terms, this is the reduction of all the possibilities of the wave aspect into the temporary certainty of the particle aspect.”

God is Not Dead, Amit Goswami

Or, ponder literary references…

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

— The Four Quartets, T.S. Elliot

Rich food for thought and contemplation, these concepts, and while they may be elusive, they are important to many of our actions. As Board members, they challenge us to impact the journey of others in our charge while letting the tiller be handled by those closer to the day-to-day action.

3 replies
  1. Bill Ryan
    Bill Ryan says:

    I appreciate it when someone who has standing in the secular world is touched by a spiritual writing. I believe it is a mistake, however, to attribute validation to Cynthia’s communications because of this. .Her words have truth and depth because they resonate with what is deepest and truest in our own hearts and in our own life experience. That is the source of their validation.

  2. marcia perryman
    marcia perryman says:

    Thankyou for this blog and as a board member, and a group facilitator of an incompetent organization, this practise has been challenging but with gifts. It is all about surrender, letting go of ego, and being grateful for being part of the tapestry and not the whole picture… thanks again. marcia perryman, ontario

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