“To desire nothing beyond what you have is surely happiness. Aboard a boat, it is frequently possible to achieve just that.”
Bruce offered up this insight, contributing to the spiritual enlightening conversation Nelson and I were having as the sun crested the horizon this morning. Only now am I realizing that it’s Sunday, and ironically appropriate we would find ourselves on the topic.
“What did you study at Columbia, during undergrad?” I had asked Nelson, 30 minutes prior.
“Yeah, but what was your degree? World religions?” I clarified.
“Well that’s a fucking waste of money.” I blurted, all too aware of my daughter’s practical pursuit of a psychology and business degree on my dime.
He then went on to explain that his favorite professor was Robert Thurman. Like Ulma’s dad, Robert Thurman (as if to clarify between the several in my Rolodex).
Robert dropped out of Harvard and travelled the East (India, Tibet) on a motorcycle, ultimately befriending the Dali Lama, not dissimilar from Bill Murray in Caddyshack. After losing an eye, and reaching the pinnacle of a Westerner’s pursuit of Buddhist enlightenment, the two unrelated, he was shipped back to America to evangelize as a white monk. He became the head of the Buddhist department at Columbia, wherein my friend Nelson came under his mentorship and guidance.
Un-enlightened, I was curious if Nelson ever made out with Ulma, being his dad’s prodigy and all.
“No, but I did hear the story of how she saved his glass eye from the bottom of their swimming pool at their summer home.” He offered as a consolation.
Lame, I thought.
“So what are the principles of Buddhism, or like, what do you believe if you follow Buddha” I asked, a sheltered Jew from the Midwest.
“Well, there are four tenants of Buddhism. The first is that life is suffering.”
Sweating my balls off, dehydrated, hungry, and bored, he had my attention.
“Next, life is suffering because of unmet desires. For example, we want to get to Antigua - we desire that, yet here we sit bobbing in the ocean with very little progress.”
I was reminded of Staton’s comments below deck earlier. How every day the computer tells us we are still 6 days away - what a geographical oddity Antigua must be. 6 days from everywhere.
“Third, the suffering will come to an end, or you can end it”
Again, I’m looking at that cool water, trailing our boat. One leap over the life lines and I can reach enlightenment.
“Last, and this is key, you can end the suffering through the learnings of the Buddha”.
So now launching myself into Neptune’s bosom is my back-up plan.
Life is suffering, it’s due to unmet desires, it can end if I understand simple philosophies that put me back in my body, my present moment, my current state, etc.
“For example” Nelson continued “when I’m in the ER, the smell of body fluid and the noise of suffering overwhelming, I remind myself that this place brings hope to the suffering, and I experience a feeling of Nirvana. And THEN I ask if I can go home, and hide in my bed”.
“Bruce, share that quote again.” I asked, enraptured by his advice.
“To desire nothing beyond what you have is surely happiness. Aboard a boat, it is frequently possible to achieve just that. It’s from Carleton Mitchell, a renowned sailor.” He shared a second time.
I’ve got some beef to raise with my rabbi. All that Hebrew, and I’m still searching for a feeling of contentedness, AND a legit bagel in Denver.
And, readers, there it is. Nearly two weeks off the shores of Europe, nearly becalmed a thousand miles short of the Caribbean, and the answer was in me the entire time. Be where your feet are. Desire no more than what you have. Who you have. Who you are. What you are. Be the Buddha. Be the ball…na na na na na nahhhh.
We're the Zimmerman Family!
Home Base | Denver, CO
A family of six that
LOVES to sail !
Follow our crew (Royce, Tara, Avery, Charley, Nora & Ruby)
as we blog our sailing adventures
Set Sail 4.22.23 | Las Palmas - Across the Atlantic - Island of Antigua
Set Sail 9.22.21 | Sweden - Germany -
Set Sail 7.18.19 | Newport, RI -
Martha's Vineyard, MA -
Nantucket, MA -
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