For the past three years, I have been following the Hawaiian voyaging canoe, Hōkūle‘a, as she sailed around the globe, documenting the crew's interchange with local indigenous people and environmentalists for a book to be published by Patagonia.
Hōkūle‘a is sailed without modern instruments. Navigators look to the sun, swells, stars, and birds to find their way across the vast oceans. This way-finding practice is ancient and its principles are much like those of yoga. Each is a practice of being aware, of listening, or finding the way, and often this includes trusting what is known in Hawaiian as the na'au, instinct.
Navigators have told me sometimes all that is needed is one star to know the right direction to go. Sometimes, in a squall, you just need to shut the sails, and ride out the storm until it is safe and clear to resume the sail. And sometimes, there will be no signs at all and you may not know which way to go. That is when you need to listen and trust your na'au. In yoga philosophy, this is similar to pratyahara, to draw the senses inward, to find the stillness, and from this place to then find the right direction forward.
The canoe is home now. Hōkūle‘a was fully embraced by tens of thousands of Hawaiians as she made her way into the home waters. Like all the great teachers of life, this canoe has taught, and continues to teach many the task of trusting oneself to find the clear and safe and right way home.
Here is a glimpse into the beauty and the depth of this epic voyage ~~>